Laguna Seca, 17th October 2008
Laguna Seca ALMS will be my last race with an Audi prototype.
The agreement to end this part of my career together with the R10 TDI
was taken a long time ago with Dr. Ullrich as Audi is preparing their future
with a new generation of drivers.
A wonderful chapter of my life and career comes to an end. It is time to
turn the page.
Now I have to deal with my “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!
In this respect I would like to sincerely thank all those who made me
extremely interesting offers in the past two years, those with whom I am
negotiating at the present moment and those who will contact me in the
future. To all of them goes my great appreciation and gratitude.
I consider Le Mans and the ALMS as my home after so many years and it
is there where I would like to continue my involvement.
When I retired from F1 at the age of 30, I believed that the best part of my
career, if not all of it, was over and I could never have imagined (even
being an “eternal optimistic”) that I still had 15 wonderful years with Audi
to come, full of personal and professional success.
These 15 years with Audi are full of wonderful memories. 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;
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
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 teammates 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,
humor 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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