Nine-time Le Mans champion Tom Kristensen announces retirement
Arguably the most successful sports car racing driver of this era has called time on his career.
Tom Kristensen announced Wednesday that he will be retiring from professional racing at the end of this year. The news broke during a press conference in Copenhagen, near the home of the 47-year-old Dane.
Kristensen, who scored a record-extending ninth overall win at Le Mans in 2013 and is also the reigning FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Champion, will cap off his illustrious career in next weekend’s FIA WEC season-ending Six Hours of Sao Paulo.
He will remain with Audi as a brand ambassador, joining the likes of fellow former drivers Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Emanauale Pirro in that role.
”I’ve had the privilege of driving for the best team and the world’s coolest automobile manufacturer for 15 years,” Kristensen said of his time spent with Audi. “I’ve had great teammates 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.”
The large majority of Kristensen’s success had come with driving for Audi. He won in his debut with the German manufacturer at the Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2000, in what was also Audi’s first sports car win.
Later that year, Kristensen notched his second Le Mans crown, kicking off a remarkable stretch of six consecutive overall victories in the twice-around-the-clock French endurance classic, with wins at Le Mans also in 2008 and 2013.
The most successful driver ever at Le Mans also holds a number of accolades in North America, having won the Twelve Hours of Sebring a record six times, plus one additional class victory.
He is also a former American Le Mans Series champion, with Kristensen enjoying success in DTM as well during his 15-year tenure with Audi.
Kristensen announced his retirement alongside longtime friend Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport, with Team Joest managing director Ralf Jüttner, who helped him land his first drive in sports car racing, also in attendance.
“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,” said Ullrich. “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. Tom has… shown 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 will team with Loic Duval and Lucas Di Grassi in the appropriately numbered No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro for his final race on Nov. 30 in Brazil.