He may already be known as a record-breaker, but 'Mr Le Mans' Tom Kristensen has admitted that he is now a rule-breaker too, after claiming that Audi overcame three unwritten rules to triumph in the 76th edition of the round-the-clock French classic this year.

In so doing, the Dane added to his successes from 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 - all-but two of them with the Ingolstadt manufacturer - and he reflected afterwards that it had been the most satisfying of them all, having had to battle against a quicker competitor in the form of Peugeot, which took three of its 908 HDis to La Sarthe determined to halt Audi's hegemony.

"What's the secret of winning Le Mans?" Kristensen questioned afterwards, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio. "The secret is not a secret - it just takes a lot to do it. It's this unique atmosphere, with great people with the same determination, and we always believe in it.

"This time of course we didn't have the fastest car, but as drivers we had a very strong belief; Allan [McNish] especially, but Dindo [Capello] as well, were able to really motivate the people in the team. They knew we wanted to win, and when it then works and the car doesn't miss a beat and our engineers and tyre guys and so on make all the right calls, then we come out on top.

"We all did four stints, which particularly towards the beginning of the race was one of the keys to keeping the pressure cooker boiling. It was really tough out there, especially during the night - the last part of it of course was in tricky conditions, but I knew we'd just have to get through it.

"There was a lot of rain, and if this had been a dry race it would have been the fastest race in history. We were basically - literally - spanking the cars."

Indeed, the result cemented the 39-year-old's glittering reputation as the most successful driver in the history of the race frequently referred to as 'the hardest in the world'. It also came despite a late scare, when he was hit from behind by the LMP2 Barazi Epsilon Zytek of Juan Barazi in the closing stages, spinning him around and injecting the already tense final hour with yet more drama and suspense.

"I don't know who it was," Kristensen urged. "I don't want to know and I don't really want to comment on it. I can say it came out of the blue. I had the corner, and then I got a knock in the back, but as I radioed in afterwards, they asked if the car was okay and I radioed back 'the car is better than before'."

Following the crushing disappointment of the 2007 edition, when the trio in the yellow #2 Audi had established a lead of nigh-on four laps when a lost rear wheel at high speed plunged Capello into the barriers - and put the Italian and his two team-mates out of the race - Kristensen admitted that the result of the 2008 outing had been fitting payback.

"This makes up for last year," the regular DTM front-runner enthused, "because a lot of people have said 'you can't win with Allan', but Allan is a fantastic driver and I'm really proud to drive with him, and now we have won together.

"The yellow car internally within Audi has also never won, and Dindo is on the [pre-race] poster - which is also supposed to mean you can't win. In that sense we broke three rules to win this year - that's really good.

"A lot of times people have said 'Tom, you won, but only because you were in the best car'. First of all I had to fight three, four or five other similar cars - that's normally always the most difficult thing, and of course here we had very strong competition in Peugeot.

"I would say they were really, really confident - we got the gossip from the press conference - so in that sense it's really satisfying, for sure. We are also very respectful for the speed of their car - we were very impressed by it, but just as importantly we were not depressed by it. This was I think our target, and it (the outcome) is really fantastic."

by Russell Atkins

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