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Kristensen finds fresh motivation for Le Mans

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Tom Kristensen is not lacking for motivation as he prepares for a world endurance championship season that sees the great Dane targeting an unprecedented 10th Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar victory.

The friendship of team mates, tragedy, a delayed tribute to a late father and a sense of history all play a part in the equation.

The 46-year-old driver won at the Sarthe circuit last year with French first time winner Loic Duval and Britain's Allan McNish, who completed his personal hat-trick and has now retired.

That race was overshadowed from early on, however, when Danish Aston Martin driver Allan Simonsen died in an accident.

Kristensen had planned to dedicate any victory to his late father but instead, when he eventually stood on top of a muted podium with none of the usual post-race exuberance, paid tribute to Simonsen.

"I would love my great French team mate Loic Duval to win (Le Mans) and actually enjoy it," the Dane told Reuters on Wednesday at a presentation for next week's opening round of the championship, the Six Hours of Silverstone on April 20.

"Last year it was under very special circumstances so he deserves a real one.

"And now...we have a Brazilian who could potentially be the first Brazilian ever to win the 24 hours of Le Mans. And you know how many good Brazilians they have produced over the years," added Kristensen. "That's very much my target and my focus."

Brazilian former Formula One driver Lucas Di Grassi has replaced McNish in the lineup.

Le Mans will be on the weekend of June 14-15 and Kristensen also hopes to be able to make the public tribute to the father who died of cancer and had predicted before he passed away that his son would win last year.

"If I ever would be fortunate and good enough to be part of a winning crew again, that will be for him," said Kristensen, who beat Belgian Jacky Ickx's's previous record of six Le Mans wins back in 2005.

Another win for "Mr Le Mans" would be the highlight of the season for the Dane but Audi face a tougher challenge than ever with a strong challenge from the returning Porsche team - now with ex-Formula One driver Mark Webber - as well as Toyota.

"We are heading into the championship this year as motivated but also under no illusions that it definitely will be harder this year," said Kristensen.

"They (Porsche) have already shown good speed and more importantly very good reliability."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer)

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