Tom Kristensen has refused to say whether he will still be in the DTM in 2009, after admitting that 'mistakes' and 'misunderstandings' have blighted his 2008 campaign with Audi.
The Dane may have been given the sobriquet 'Mr Le Mans' for his record-breaking eight triumphs in the French round-the-clock classic, but he has been less successful in the pan-European tin-top series this year, failing to win a race as he currently sits just seventh in the drivers' standings.
Though a traffic-afflicted twelfth on the starting grid during the championship's British visit to Brands Hatch earlier this month marked the only time he has failed to qualify inside the top seven all year, Kristensen nevertheless has been out of luck come the races, with just a trio of runner-up spots and two seventh places to his name, leaving him trailing title-chasing Audi Sport Team Abt team-mate Timo Scheider – a man who prior to this season had never even won a race in the DTM before – by some 32 points in the rankings.
“For sure, this year has been very much up-and-down,” the 41-year-old told Crash.net Radio
. “Obviously you need to be always up at the front, so in that sense it's been a disappointing season so far. There have been mistakes, there have been misunderstandings and there has been something which you can maybe defer as unlucky.
“I mean, in the previous race [at the Nürburgring] we started from pole, and after the green flag lap we were more-or-less last. It's a hard one to take them on when you're starting from pole and you're on the wrong tyres; that's an issue which is pretty hard to cure. I always look and talk with Audi at the end of the season, though, so we will see.”
After his frustrating qualifying session, Brands Hatch at least yielded a couple of points for Kristensen, just about keeping him in touch with fifth place in the overall reckoning – if no longer in the battle for the crown. The three-time DTM race-winner – who has twice finished third in the championship, in 2005 and 2006 – acknowledged that it had been a case of extracting the best from the worst as it were around the Kent circuit, and predicted that Audi could 'only lose' the fight with Mercedes-Benz over the final three races of the campaign.
“It was a good Sunday,” he stated of his Brands outing. “After a very bad situation in qualifying, starting from twelfth and finishing seventh was okay. Sixth would have been better, though; I was behind [Bruno] Spengler and I could put him under pressure.
“If I had got onto the back of him a little bit earlier, I think my tyres were in better condition to have been able to maybe put him under a bit more pressure and overtake him. At the end of the day it was a good Sunday, but a bad weekend.
“I think what you see now is not just a characteristic of the car; I think it's a characteristic of the championship that the cars are just so closely-matched. We were ten kilos lighter [than Mercedes] over the weekend, though, and ten kilos in a tumble-drier like Brands Hatch makes things a little bit harder towards the end.
“To be honest, at the moment we can only lose [the championship]. I think it looks pretty good in the hands of Timo. Obviously he has two Mercs right behind him, but 'Ekky' (Mattias Ekström) has virtually the same points as them, and in that sense it looks very, very good for us.”
by Russell Atkins