Audi puts Emanuele Pirro out to pasture
Emanuele Pirro will race an Audi sports prototype for the last time in his career at the American Le Mans Series finale on 18 October at Laguna Seca. The Italian has served the brand since 1994 and is one of the most successful Audi factory drivers ever with three touring car titles, two sportscar championship victories in the American Le Mans Series and five wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
|Pirro isn't too thrilled about being put out to pasture|
Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich and the 46-year old Audi factory driver Emanuele Pirro had already reached an agreement some time ago about the end of the Italian’s active career for Audi at the 2008 American Le Mans Series season finale. Included among Pirro’s outstanding victories under the banner of the four rings are the Italian Touring Car Championship (1994 and 1995), the German Touring Car Championship (1996), the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2007) and the American Le Mans Series (2001, 2005).
"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," explains Dr Wolfgang Ullrich of Pirro who became the first driver to be signed during his time as Head of Audi Motorsport since 1993. "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."
"A wonderful chapter of my life and career comes to a close," explains Emanuele Pirro. "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. I want to pass on my sincerest gratitude to Audi Sport and all the teams for who I have driven – ROC Competition, Audi Sport Italia, Team Joest and Champion Racing and also all my team mates during this time."
In order to nurture this prosperous and successful cooperation Audi has opened the possibility for Emanuele Pirro to act as brand ambassador in the future. Audi successfully implemented the rejuvenation of the sportscar program driver squad in 2006 with the signing of Lucas Luhr (winner of the LM P1 class in the 2008 American Le Mans Series together with Marco Werner), Alexandre Prémat and Mike Rockenfeller (joint winners of the Le Mans Series 2008) and continued it this year with races for Marcel Fässler and Christijan Albers.
Somewhat bitter statement from Pirro
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 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 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.
Yours, Emanuele Pirro