Kristensen: Le Mans clash a shame for F1 drivers

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LONDON – Nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen has called the provisional clash between the 24-hour race and the European Grand Prix in 2016 “a shame”, believing it will deny a number of Formula 1 drivers the chance to take part in the prestigious event.

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg joined Porsche in the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 6 Hours of Spa before becoming the first current F1 driver since 1991 to win Le Mans.

However, the German looks unable to defend his crown in 2016 alongside Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber thanks to a clash between Le Mans and the European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan on June 19.

Speaking to MotorSportsTalk in London ahead of this weekend’s Race of Champions, Kristensen expressed his disappointment in the clash, believing that Hulkenberg would not be the only F1 driver keen to balance commitments in 2016.

“What’s lovely to see is a guy like Nico who in the season he was driving and was able to compete along with Bamber and Tandy,” Kristensen said. “They well deserved the victory, they were particularly strong at night.

“That’s something which I like to see. I think that just puts it a bit in fashion. Every Formula 1 driver, you ask them, they would all love to do Le Mans.

“It’s just the name of the industry at the moment. It’s difficult to combine these things. It’s a shame. It’s a big shame that it’s on the same weekend.

“WEC for me has always been around the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the hardest race, the most sexy race with the cars we have.

“So in that sense, I know what I would pick if I was a driver and you can have a longer career. I’m an older driver. Of course, these youngsters they will be and dream of going to Le Mans one time.”

Kristensen will be defending the Race of Champions Nations Cup title at London’s former Olympic Stadium on Friday, racing for Team Nordic alongside ex-WRC and current WRX driver Petter Solberg.