At home with Porsche works driver Michael Christensen
The reigning world sports car champion on London living in lockdown
A police car swoops down the street followed by a dark limousine bearing the American flag. “The neighbours have visitors,” smiles Porsche works driver Michael Christensen, as he points to a spectacular building from his balcony. “That’s the US embassy. There are definitely worse places to live than here.”
The reigning world sports car champion has been living in London since early 2019. His 50-square-metre apartment is in a modern complex next door to the US consulate. At the front of the building flows the Thames, behind it is the London Underground, which takes the Dane into the city centre or to Heathrow Airport within minutes.
“This environment is perfect for me. It’s very rare to find something like this in London,” says the 2018 Le Mans winner. Before moving to the city, Christensen spent five years living in Vienna. When he signed the contract as a Porsche works driver in 2014, he left his parents’ home and set up on his own. “I discovered something about myself in Vienna,” he says. “I had an apartment with a wonderful view and I realised how important it was for me to have a wide outlook.” The tall apartment block on London’s South Bank ticks that box: from his balcony, Christensen overlooks one of the great financial hubs of the world.
“I have Danish friends who’ve lived in London for years. When I came to visit them I got to know the very different living conditions here. There are a lot of old buildings. It can get really loud at some of my friends’ places because of the extremely poor insulation. It feels as if you’re sitting out on the street,” he says. “When I close the windows and the balcony door, it’s completely quiet. We even have our own gym in the building. To train, I only have to catch the elevator a few floors down – so there are no excuses.”
When he wants fresh air, the Porsche factory driver heads down to the Thames, then along the riverbank towards Battersea Park. “If there is an upside to the coronavirus, then it’s the fact that there are hardly any crowds in the city right now. That means I can run right up to the famous London Eye. The scenery is great,” he says.
Apart from his obvious passion for motor racing, the swift Scandinavian is a great art lover – and a couple of years ago was immortalised on canvas himself.
“Immediately after our Le Mans win in 2018, an artist approached me with an exciting project,” he explains. “I was dressed in a smart suit. She sat me in a huge leather chair and took photos. She then added almost 50 layers of different elements. In the end, it looked almost like a still-life artwork. This image portrays the essence of me and my racing: a falcon for focus and speed, a brain as the hub of concentration, and a timepiece for the constant battle against the clock. Many fantastic images came out of this project. It was a lot of fun.”
A little while ago, Christensen met girlfriend Maria, a fellow Dane who works for the Danish government. Although he says their lives are very different, the couple complement each other perfectly. “I travel a lot, I work in the fast motorsport business. Maria, on the other hand, is always in Copenhagen and has completely different work commitments. Her very different perspective gives me fascinating insights into life,” reveals the 29-year-old.
“I’ve been on talk shows in Denmark, I’ve played a reasonably central role in athletic awards and I’ve even met Prince Joachim,” he continues. “It’s hard to believe, but his Highness beat me in a race. At the historic Grand Prix in Copenhagen, an amateur and a professional driver share a cockpit. His car had a stronger overall crew. But it didn’t matter, the main thing was about having fun.”
Christensen, however, had less fun at the famous Roskilde music festival not far from Copenhagen. “I went once. Never again! The music was great and I like pop and rock and the organisers offer young artists a chance to take the stage, but the crowds, the chaos and the mud were awful. I prefer my quiet life in London.”