Tom Kristensen finally conceded defeat in the battle for 2006 DTM honours at Le Mans last weekend, but in typically gritty fashion the hard-charging Dane did not go down without a fight.
After qualifying a strong second to championship rival Bernd Schneider's ninth, the 'King of Le Mans' made a poor start to slip back to fifth position, before working his way back up to third at the chequered flag – his fifth podium finish of the season. Unfortunately for the 39-year-old, Schneider's fifth place was enough to ensure the German clinched the crown for a record fifth time, while team-mate Bruno Spengler's victory pushed Audi's number one down to third in the standings.
“It goes without saying that I'm disappointed the championship is lost,” Kristensen said, magnanimous as ever in defeat. “Congratulations, however, to Bernd who had a fantastic season. He has been consistent throughout and is a worthy champion.
“My car was very good today. Unfortunately, I didn't get away well at the start. I had too much wheelspin and we had to change the strategy and make the first pit-stop earlier. However, because of the shorter opening stint I got caught up in traffic, which gave Spengler and Häkkinen the chance to control the race. I had a fantastic fight with Jamie Green and I eventually got the better of him. After such a start third was the best I could do.
“Unfortunately we never really used our opportunities this season, but we will have another chance next year!”
“First of all, congratulations to Mercedes-Benz and especially to Bernd Schneider for winning the title,” added Audi motorsport director Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. “An old hand has won again.
“We saw a strong performance by the Mercedes teams. We were also strong, especially in qualifying, but unfortunately it wasn't enough in the race. Tom didn't make a perfect start and we had to bring him into the pits early for strategic reasons. The two Mercedes' were able to drive unimpeded at the front for many laps and were able to build an advantage as a result.
“However, we also didn't have the basic speed, which we'd hoped to have, though our cars did become quicker and quicker as the race went on. We fought tooth-and-nail to the end and saw an exciting race. Now, we are working all-out to claim runner-up position for Tom at Hockenheim.”