Emanuele Pirro has admitted that his decision to bring his racing career to an end at the end of 2008 wasn't an easy one to make, although the Italian concedes that he always wanted to bow out at the top.
The Audi driver elected to hang up his helmet following the final round of the American Le Mans Series after a career than was highlighted by two ALMS titles and no fewer than five wins in the Le Mans 24 Hours, and is now set to take up an ambassadorial role with the German marque during the coming year.
While he admits it wasn't an easy decision to take, the Italian said it had been the right one at the end of a campaign where he finished second in the ALMS standings behind team-mates Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr.
"Oh yeah, indeed," he told Crash.net
when asked if it had been a difficult decision to make. "I love racing so much and I have been doing this forever! I am almost 47-years-old and I started out when I was just 11-years-old in karts. [However] You have to say at one stage that it is time to stop and I always wanted to stop at a high level.
"In a way it is sad, but I have to get used to it and I will be staying in motorsport and staying with Audi representing the brand. That's life. You have your last day at school, you have your last day at university and you have your last day of racing. I have many interests and lots of things to do, so my challenges are not over.
"I was really happy with the last season and the last race especially so I have no regrets. I have to say that we are a group of drivers, the Audi drivers, who have been together for many years. We are all old, but we have been bonded together so successfully that we have been hanging on for a long time.
"I am the oldest, Frank Biela is 44, Dindo Capello is 44 and Tom Kristensen is 41 or something – so we are all, how should I put it, well grown-up. Audi has to look for the next generation of drivers but we have been doing good things together for many years and we still perform. So it is a difficult decision."
While he is enjoying his retirement to date however, Pirro admitted that it wouldn't be as easy when the new season gets underway and Audi's latest car – the R15 – hits the track at Sebring for the first time.
"Now I am a retired driver, at least at this level," he said, "but it is the winter and the season is over so I am only doing what I would be doing every winter with no driving.
"The tough time will start, or I will probably realise how tough it is, when the season starts. I don't know if I will go to Sebring, but I want to go to Le Mans because it is a place where I have had so many good memories and I would like to go and watch the race there."