Former F1 driver and two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Alex Wurz will retire from competitive racing at this month's World Endurance Championship finale in Bahrain, it has been announced.
The Austrian has enjoyed a distinguished career in motorsport since becoming the youngest ever winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1996, going on to spend four full seasons in F1 as a race driver for Benetton and Williams, as well as a long-serving test driver for McLaren.
Notching up three podiums at F1 level, Wurz went on to clinch a second Le Mans triumph with Peugeot in 2008, but despite establishing himself as a front runner with Toyota in the World Endurance Championship in recent years, he says a bitter exit from the 2014 Le Mans race – where the TS040 Hybrid hit technical issues from a healthy lead – has prompted him to rethink his future.
“After 12 years as a race and third driver in F1, I was lucky to indulge a passion for Le Mans Prototype racing for a further eight seasons. That means I've enjoyed half of my lifetime competing at the top of motorsport and another quarter of it working my way up there, so I feel the time is right to call it a day and bring my career as a professional racing driver to a close.
I've a lot to be grateful for and a lot I'm proud of. My two Le Mans wins will always be the most special and unforgettable, along with the Silverstone podium in my 3rd Formula 1 race.
“In F1, I feel hugely privileged to have driven for top F1 teams like Benetton, McLaren and Williams, and added a bit of silverware to their trophy cabinets. I loved the testing and development work, collaborating with the engineers to find ever more performance.
“LMP1 brought some epic battles and crushing retirements. Nothing beats the Le Mans podiums, but the Sebring 12h, Petit Le Mans and securing Toyotas first WEC victory were pretty special too.
“Endurance racing, especially Le Mans, has to be one of the harshest sports. I've lead most of the Le Mans 24h races I have raced in. But it was our 15 hour lead in last year's race that ended with retirement that had to be the hardest.
“I'd put so much effort into 2014 and into the race preparation that I found it very difficult to move on after the DNF. In previous years, such a defeat made me come back stronger, ready to launch into the fight again, but not that time. This was the moment I knew that my time at the sharp end was coming to a natural end. The WEC Bahrain 6 Hours will mark this end.
Beyond racing, Wurz has also been instrumental in instigating motorsport change through his role as the Grand Prix Drivers' Association president, a role he is set to continue.
“So a big thanks to the racing community for the challenges, the battles and the victories, and to the fans, the teams, the competitors, the organisers, the volunteers and especially to my family!
“My future will still evolve around racing, it's in my blood after all. Anyone who knows me, knows that I always have lots of projects on the go which includes growing my road safety and race track design business. You will still see me around, just without the overalls.”
Wurz will line-up alongside Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway in the Toyota for the final time in Bahrain on November 21st.