Audi has revealed that the 2008 American Le Mans Series finale this weekend at Laguna Seca will mark the final time that Emanuele Pirro will compete for the team.

The experienced Italian has been involved with Audi since 1994 and has played a key role in its success in sportscar competition, having taken two ALMS titles and no fewer than five wins in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Pirro reached agreement with head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich earlier in the year that he would end his active Audi career at the end of the season, although he could take on a role as brand ambassador in future.

"On behalf of the Audi motorsport squad and the entire AUDI AG I would like to extend our thanks to Emanuele Pirro for the excellent and extremely successful cooperation over the last 15 years," Ullrich said of the man who became the first driver to be signed during his time as head of Audi's motorsport division. "Throughout this extraordinarily long relationship many personal experiences and great memories of fantastic individual race wins and championship victories with Audi touring and sportscar unite us still today."

Pirro will bring the curtain down on his time with Audi having taken the Italian Touring Car Championship in 1994 and 1995 before going on to secure the German Touring Car title in 1996.

Moving into sportscars, he then took a hat-trick of wins at Le Mans from 2000 to 2003; going on to add further victories in 2006 and 2007. Pirro also lifted the ALMS title in both 2001 and 2005.

Having spent 15 years with Audi, Pirro admitted he faces a difficult decision surrounding his future as he makes the call on whether to continue his racing career.

"A wonderful chapter of my life and career comes to a close," he reflected. "Even as hopeless optimist, at the very beginning I would never have dreamt of spending 15 such fantastic and wonderfully successful years with Audi on both a personal and professional level. Audi is preparing their future with a new generation of drivers. It is time to turn the page.

"Now I have to deal with the incurable passion and enthusiasm that wants me to continue racing. I feel I still have a great deal of competitiveness and experience to offer. I have to take crucial decisions within the next few weeks. Do I stop racing and keep using my experience and knowledge in promoting the Audi brand, from whom I received a lot and gave as much, with the same passion and intensity
that I have so far but from another perspective; or do I use my knowledge and experience in taking other interesting and challenging racing opportunities that are available to me? Tough call!"

Pirro added that he would take many memories away from his Audi career, ranging from his touring car successes to the birth of the successful Sportscar programme.

"It seems like yesterday when I put the Audi 80 STW on pole at my first race in 1994 and won the Italian Super Touring Car championship for two years in a row," he continued. "The following year 1996 I went to Germany and secured the German Super Touring Car title that Audi had never won before in their home country.

"Then in 1999 we started a very secret project; our Le Mans adventure where Frank Biela, Didier Theys and I ended up third in our first attempt, since then, until 2007, I never stepped off the Le Mans podium; driving with different team-mates in my beloved race. The following three years that brought consecutive wins with Tom Kristensen and Frank, especially the first win for Audi in 2000 and the first with an FSI engine in 2001, are unforgettable.

"When I heard that we were going to develop and enter a Diesel powered car for Le Mans I was dreaming to be the first driver to win that race with such an unusual technology for high performance racing. What happened was, not only that we won the French Classic at the first attempt, but also in the following year, with Marco Werner and my ever loyal Frank Biela.

"But, even the best fairy tales come to an end. I would sincerely say a big thank you to Audi Sport and my Audi Teams, ROC Competition, Audi Sport Italia, Team Joest and Champion Racing who made me feel at home and gave me much more than just very competitive race cars.

"Another big thank you goes to all my team mates without whom I could not have achieved these results. I will miss Frank with his consistency and reliability, Tom with his professionalism, Marco with his natural talent, Dindo with his character, humour and sincerity and Allan with his speed.

"Whatever happens I take this opportunity to sincerely thank all the great people I came across in my successful and, beyond imagination, long career that contributed and helped me to get to this point. Also I would like to wish Audi Sport and its drivers all the best."



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