TK Goes Electric

source: Audi Australia, words: Patrick Morda, photos: Robert Fischer

  • Undoubtedly one of the finest racing drivers of the modern era, Tom Kristensen never drove a fully-electric car in his racing career – but he has quite a soft sport for his daily driver RS e-tron GT.

It’s surprising just how quiet it can be at the Audi Motorsport Headquarters in Neuburg – just north of the brand’s Ingolstadt HQ. Off in the distance a bird stands in the wind above the test track, lurking, as an Audi RS e-tron GT comes to a futuristic whirring halt at one of the charging stations next to the test track.

“I love the sound,” Tom Kristensen says as he plugs the Daytona grey Audi into the charging station. It’s safe to say, he adds, that the Audi RS e-tron GT isn’t exactly what you would call the quietest electric vehicle there is. Nor is it the first time that the nine-time Le Mans winner has owner a fully electric vehicle.

“It’s not necessarily my first electrified vehicle,” he says. “Actually, my first one was a golf cart. I even had a road permit,” he continues. The contrasts obviously couldn’t be greater – as functional as a golf cart certainly, it doesn’t quite stack up against the high-performance Audi Sport GT.

An animated Tom Kristensen talks about efficiency, torque curves and weight distribution. For the racetrack, he says honestly, he would like the Audi RS e-tron GT to be lighter. But then that’s Tom Kristensen the racing driver talking. The family man who, as he says, ‘enjoys the serene travelling mode’ in his own Audi RS e-tron GT back home in Hobro, Denmark.

“It’s impressive how confident the GT is on the road in everyday use.”

Over on the dynamics area not far from the charging station, a group doing an Audi driving experience are going through a set of car control exercises.

“I highly recommend it,” Kristensen says. “An e-vehicle in particular can and should be driven differently.” he notes. Particularly in terms of efficiency, he says, it is helpful to know about ‘sailing’, that is decoupling the electric motor, or recuperation, that is the recovery of braking energy.

“However, I would like to be able to have even more influence on the recuperation system so that more gradations were available. I’d love to talk to the engineers about that,” comes Kristensen, the racing driver through again. To note in the same breath: “I usually drive in ‘efficiency mode’ in everyday life. My wife too.” For a little bit, especially at the beginning, they would have been worried about the next charging possibility, even in the well-developed Denmark. But that, too, assures Tom Kristensen, is all a matter of experience.

It’s obvious Kristensen has taken to electric-drive despite a racing career driven – literally – but internal combustion engines. But how does. He see the role of electrification in the future of mobility now that it is becoming so prevalent?

“It certainly plays a decisive role with regard to efficiency and sustainability,” he says.

“But I still see challenges, for example with the range, the weight of the batteries or the charging infrastructure. But as a racing driver, I’m also open to different technologies and approaches – and I’m currently seeing some exciting developments in the field of mobility.”

As to what has changed for him since adopting electric in his own life, the answer is surprising for an ex-race driver.

“My driving style and that of my wife have adapted. We are trying to drive even more predictably. This also has to do with the sound. Audi has managed to translate the balance between performance and efficiency into sound. The way the Audi RS e-tron GT drives and sounds gives me a certain kind of serenity.”

Certainly the RS e-tron GT has proved a revelation for Kristensen and he is still finding new things about the car that he wasn’ originally aware of.

“I must confess, I just learned something new here today,” he laughs. “I hadn’t even noticed the luggage compartment under the front bonnet and the button in the driver’s door strip to open it. I immediately sent a photo to my wife. Until now, we have always stowed our charging cable in the boot. But it’s much better off up front.”

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