25 November 2014
WEC: Kristensen bows out as Audi chases distant marques’ title
Tom Kristensen may be about to call time on his successful sportscar career, but not before he tries to earn Audi another manufacturers' crown at Interlagos.
The World Endurance Championship drivers' title may have been decided in favour of Toyota's Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi in Bahrain, but there is a lot to sort out at the season finale at Interlagos this weekend.
Both the manufacturers' title and second place in the drivers' table remain up for grabs in Brazil, and the event is given extra poignancy for Audi as it not only remains in the hunt for both honours but will also bid farewell to stalwart Tom Kristensen, who ends his professional career at the chequered flag on Sunday.
Round eight of the season will be a first, as the manufacturers' championship title goes down to the wire for the first time. In the first two years of the revived series, Audi became champion early, in the third from last race of the season in 2013 and, amazingly, after just four of eight rounds in 2012.
This year, the task may already be beyond the German marque although, theoretically, there is still a chance of clinching the title as Audi trails the lead by 40 points, with 44 still to be awarded in Brazil.
Despite bowing out after the weekend, Kristensen will still have a part to play in the finale. Together with team-mate Lucas di Grassi, the 47-year old still has a mathematical chance of clinching the individual runners-up position, although Audi team-mates Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer are currently ranked second in the standings. Rivals Toyota and Porsche both also have a crew in the hunt for the spot as well, ensuring a thrilling battle in Brazil.
“I'm hoping for a great finale, but it'll no doubt be very emotional, as I'm ending my career as a professional race driver there,” Kristensen, who recorded the fastest race lap in Brazil last year, admitted, “The track at Interlagos is also on the calendar for the last time until further notice, but the enjoyment of driving an LMP sports car there is unique. The circuit is relatively short, but it's a great driver track.”
For di Grassi, round eight is a home round, as he was born in São Paulo and will be wearing a special racesuit prominently featuring the local automotive supplier and Audi Sport partner Aethra.
“I love this track and remember my first race there with Audi Sport very well,” the former F1 pilot commented, “Now, for the first time, my home round is also the finale at which my family, my friends and many fans will be visiting me – and the Brazilians support motorsport with great enthusiasm!”
Lotterer, however, will put aside any emotion regarding Kristensen's retirement when he climbs aboard his R18 e-tron quattro on Sunday, determined to lead his crew to second place overall on the season.
“The finale is being held on a fantastic track and the atmosphere in Brazil is simply cool,” he explained, having won there last season, “It feels great to return to a venue we've won at before and I'm hoping for us to be strong again this year. We're aiming for a place on the podium to end the year on a positive note.”
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