19 November 2014
Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen to retire
Nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner and sportscar legend Tom Kristensen announces he will retire from racing at the end of the 2014 season.
Tom Kristensen has surprised sportscar fans by announcing that his last race as a professional race driver will come in São Paulo at the end of the month.
The 47-year old Dane has become synonymous with success at Le Mans and, in recent years, has been a key member of the Audi factory squad. Having decided to call time on his stellar career, he will be retained by the brand as a representative and partner of Audi Sport after his retirement from competition.
“I've had the privilege of driving for the best team and the world's coolest automobile manufacturer for 15 years,” Kristensen admitted, “I've had great team-mates and worked together with fantastic people.
“With Audi, I've been able to win many titles and numerous races as well as experiencing some unforgettable, emotional moments. My string of victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours would not have been possible without Audi. Leaving this team as a driver is hard for me, but the day had to come at one time or another. I can only thank Audi and the entire staff for the great time I've had and look forward to my new tasks for the brand and the team of Audi Sport.”
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Motorsport, was quick to pay tribute to the driver who had helped put the marque on the sportscar map. He got the Dane to join Audi at the end of 1999 and, together with Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro, Kristensen achieved Audi's first victory in a sportscar race at the Sebring 12 Hours in March of 2000, before claiming the brand's first victory at Le Mans that June.
In the Audi R8, the trio of Biela/Pirro/Kristensen was the first team in history to win the world's most famous endurance race three times in succession, but Kristensen wasn't done there and celebrated three more Le Mans triumphs with Bentley and two Audi customer teams between 2003-05, marking six consecutive wins at the iconic endurance race.
He took two more victories in 2008 and 2013, at the wheel of the new Audi R10 TDI and the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro respectively, becoming the most successful Le Mans driver of all time with nine overall wins, seven of which came with Audi.
In addition to his Le Mans success, Kristensen won the 2002 American Le Mans Series with the Audi R8, and showed his versatility in the DTM, claiming nine pole positions, four race victories and 18 podium places between 2004-09.
“Naturally, the retirement of a remarkable personality like Tom Kristensen is a great loss for Audi Sport Team Joest and the entire endurance racing scene,” Ullrich acknowledged, “but we can understand his decision to quit at the pinnacle of his career.
“He's the last member of the generation that Audi began with in prototype racing, and has been competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) as the reigning world champion this year, showing that he's still one of the world's fastest and best sports car drivers. We'll miss him as a driver, but he's going to continue to support us with his wealth of experience and his personality. We're happy that Tom Kristensen has been - and will continue to be - an 'Audian' with his heart and soul.”
Kristensen's last race as a professional race driver will be the finale of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Brazil on 30 November.
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