1 January 1901
Audi hoping history repeats itself at Le Mans.
The 'King of Le Mans' is ready to work some of his magic again this weekend, as he attempts to take the DTM title battle down to the wire in the final round.
Seven-time La Sarthe winner Tom Kristensen is one of only two men who can still prevent Bernd Schneider from walking away with his fifth DTM crown in 2006, and the 39-year-old is determined to put a halt to his rival's charge in France.
The Dane trails Schneider by 18 points in the championship chase. Although he knows it will take a fair slice of bad luck for the German to deprive him of the laurels, tradition is on his side this weekend.
Not only is he the most successful driver in the 83-year history of the Le Mans 24 Hours – having made the track something of his own private stomping ground in recent years – his Audi team also won there earlier this year with its R10 TDI diesel sportscar, and is clearly hoping to do the double as it returns the scene of its triumph this weekend.
The DTM's first visit to Le Mans will see the fearsome, 470bhp flame-spitting machines take on the shorter, 4.18km Bugatti circuit, incorporating the world famous Dunlop Curve and a track where Audi's number one driver emerged victorious in a 1,000km race in the Audi R8 three years ago.
Kristensen's title ambitions may have been weakened by a non-score last time out at Barcelona, but his resolve to succeed remains as strong as ever, and Audi has the added incentive of bidding to become the first manufacturer to win three consecutive DTM races in 2006 following the Ingolstadt marque's victories in Zandvoort and Barcelona last month.
“I know the Bugatti Circuit from the race with the Audi R8,” Kristensen said, “but it's the unique Le Mans feeling with which I am more familiar. The town and entire region supports the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's greatest race.
“To come to Le Mans with the DTM is something very special. I'm convinced that it'll be a fantastic weekend.”
Team-mate Martin Tomczyk, who finally broke his DTM duck at his 77th attempt a fortnight ago in Spain, also backed Kristensen for Le Mans glory.
“One name in particular springs to mind with Le Mans – Tom Kristensen,” the German said. “I don't actually know the circuit, but it isn't usually a problem for me. I want to continue where I left off at the last race and score as many points as possible again. It goes without saying that we'll do everything possible to take the title fight all the way to Hockenheim.”
“Le Mans is a very special circuit for Audi,” added Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline team director Hans-Jürgen Abt. “After six victories in the 24-hour race we'll attempt to score the first DTM win for Audi at Le Mans. I firmly believe that Le Mans is a 'home track' for Audi, which is why we are expected to deliver a top performance.”
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