Following Audi Sport Team Joest teammate Allan McNish's strategy of "quit when you're ahead," record-holding nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen announced his retirement from sportscar racing today.
Tom Kristensen is so ingrained in the culture of Le Mans racing for his record number of wins that his nickname is "Mr. Le Mans."
Sportscar365 reports that the Danish racing superstar announced that next weekend's World Endurance Championship race, the Six Hours of Sao Paulo, will be his last. Kristensen had this to say during the Copenhagen press conference where he announced his retirement:
I've had the privilege of driving for the best team and the world’s coolest automobile manufacturer for 15 years. 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.”
Most of Kristensen's Le Mans victories were with Audi, so he will remain as a brand ambassador for the brand, just as teammates Allan McNish and Dindo Capello have done.
Kristensen also holds the record for the most number of wins at the Twelve Hours of Sebring (six times) as well as an American Le Mans Series Championship and numerous wins in DTM.
Ralf Jüttner, managing director for Audi Sport Team Joest, was at the press conference. Jüttner is the man who landed Kristensen his first drive in sportscar racing.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport, was also in attendance. Dr. Ullrich had this to say, per Sportscar365:
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. 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.”
Tom not only was of the generation of drivers who appeared in the original "Truth in 24," the documentary that followed Audi's lead-up to the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans, but he is also responsible for the huge number of Danish flags that appear at Le Mans every year.
Farewell, Mr. Le Mans. You've done good.
Photo credit: Getty Images