It may now be more than two years since he last won a race in the series, but Tom Kristensen has expressed his desire to return to the DTM again in 2009 – and prove that he is good enough to be champion.
The Dane has been affectionately dubbed 'Mr Le Mans' for his record-breaking eight glories in the legendary French round-the-clock endurance classic, but to-date he has never enjoyed the same level of success in Europe's premier touring car series, triumphing just three times in 50 races.
That said, in both 2005 and 2006 he wound up third in the final drivers' standings in the fiercely-contested championship, and in the latter campaign he was Audi's leading light, taking the fight to the dominant Mercedes-Benz duo of Bernd Schneider and Bruno Spengler with some brio.
In the following two years, however, Kristensen has placed just 14th and eighth respectively, the legacy of a hospitalising accident in the opening meeting at Hockenheim last season that forced him to miss the following three rounds, and a wave of ill-fortune in 2008 that he argues cost him what would have been a much higher finish.
“I'm ready for another crack at the DTM,” the 41-year-old told Crash.net Radio
, “because this was not my best year results-wise. I was fast many times, but I would say I certainly got the short end of the stick when I was on pole – one time I made a jump-start and two times I took the wrong tyres big-time for the conditions. The maximum 30 points I potentially lost there would obviously have made quite a big difference.”
That they would, but as ever, the 2009 campaign is likely to see the man from Hobro battling on dual fronts, as he equally spearheads Audi's sportscar challenge. Though, suffering like all car makers from the current global credit crunch, the Ingolstadt manufacturer has announced its intention to curtail its American Le Mans Series programme next year, Kristensen is convinced it is the correct way to go.
“Every time Audi has gone in with a new car, it has been a three-year programme,” he explained, “and with the R10 TDi, after the three years it bows out. In the first year of the R10, it was only Sebring and Le Mans and then afterwards you would look at the whole season. For the moment there's nothing new to that, just that they won't race the old car.
“We have the new R15 TDi from Audi (for the Sebring 12 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours), and Dr Ullrich at the moment is trying to make sure that we will keep expanding the programme. We have the Audi R8 LMS as well (for customer teams).
“It's true that they may be cutting budgets, but I think it's also true that they are being very clever and wise in trying to make a profit with the Audi R8 LMS. The car is very attractive to a lot of teams and a lot of people at the moment, so in that sense I would say they're using their energy and force a little bit on that.