Just hours before the new campaign is due to begin, Tom Kristensen has revealed that he will spend just one more year in the DTM before devoting himself to sportscars for the rest of his racing career.
The Dane's Audi links have seen him combine touring cars with his major passion for the past five years but, while not detracting from his record-breaking sportscar career - which has yielded eight victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours alone - his spell in the DTM has yet to produce the same level of success. Heading in to the 2009 season, Kristensen has racked up seven pole positions, 16 podiums and three victories, but the title continues to elude him, despite Audi having proven ultimately successful during his tenure in the series.
"It's been a long process making this decision and now it's final," Kristensen admitted, "The DTM has been a fantastic period in my career, during which I experienced a lot of different things and worked together with great people. However, my final DTM spurt starts this weekend at Hockenheim and, from now on, I'll be revving up my engine freely and fighting for the title."
Kristensen admits to having loved the balancing act required between racing in the DTM and at Le Mans as it allowed him to showcase his, arguably unique, versatility in the cockpit of different cars, but he always concedes that the 24 Hours remains the biggest and best event for him, while the DTM represents the best series.
"Sharing the cockpit with other drivers, working together to come up with the optimum set-up, and fighting for victory on a unique track – that's simply the greatest thing for me," the Dane enthused, "That Audi gives me the opportunity to compete in two such different motorsport categories at the highest level is a big privilege which I greatly appreciate."
Now 41 and a father of three, Kristensen will devote himself to adding to his Le Mans tally and winning other sportscar classics - he has already shared victory in this year's Sebring 12 Hours with the all-new R15 TDi - from 2010. It is a choice accepted, reluctantly, by his Audi paymasters.
"I've had many discussions with Tom about his future and, of course, respect his decision to fully concentrate on sportscars," the marque's head of motorsport, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, confirmed, "When he leaves, the DTM will not only lose a fast racer who is always a candidate for victory, but also a great sportsman who is highly respected by both rivals and fans because of his fair conduct and friendly nature. Now though, we're jointly looking forward to ten exciting DTM weekends [in 2009]."