Klaus Ludwig Q&A

After a career spanning four decades, and a comeback this year Frank Sinatra would have been proud of, Klaus Ludwig has hung up his helmet. And this time, he insists, it's for keeps. He won the Le Mans 24 Hours three times in 1979, '84 and '85, won five German saloon titles - including two DTM crowns - and has raced all over the world. On the day he announced his retirement, he took time out to speak to Autosport.com

Klaus Ludwig Q&A

"The decision was actually taken last year. When the DTM started again I said 'OK, I'll come back and race again but just for a season'. To win two races and finish third this year, considering my age, was brilliant. I had the feeling it's time to do other things. I wanted to say this at Hockenheim [the final round] but I didn't want to detract from the championship, so I decided to wait a little before I announced anything. But now it's time to say I won't race again."

"No, it's absolutely not possible when you're 51-years-old. If I could win it would be brilliant for me, but a big shame for the others! You could argue I could do normal races, but sprint races at this level, with 20 guys out there who want to win, it's impossible. You must be fair to yourself and say that's it."

"I would say Marcel Fassler did a very good job. He had all the luck on his side but he's a fantastic young guy and a brilliant race driver. I'm keen to see how he does next year. Thomas Jager was poor on the mental side. He was a bit weak and made some mistakes. He didn't really find the speed of the others except for a few occasions. He deserves another chance next year, and then we can judge what his future is.

"Marcel Tiemann looks set for ChampCar racing, which is brilliant for him. He asked me if I think he should do it and I said yes. If I was young like him, what the hell, I would take the chance! We shouldn't forget he won the Monaco F3 race and he's a talented young guy. Why shouldn't he be in the middle of the pack? That would be fantastic to see in his first year over there."

"Peter Dumbreck is a highly talented guy. He had his ups and downs, like everyone else. We all know he came here after some brilliant years in Japan and, for sure, he's one of the guys of the future. Darren Turner surprised me that he didn't get his act together. He's got Formula 1 testing experience...I don't know. He's a charming young man, and I really like him, but he didn't seem to concentrate enough. If he gets another chance next year he's got to focus on what he's doing, because the talent is there, for sure."

"The DTM is not over the mountain yet, but it was a very good beginning for the first year back. Next year will be even tougher because Audi has got to get its act together next year - it needs more freedom with the car's aerodynamics. They should be more competitive than before, which will be good. Opel has the best engine, so if they build the right car around this engine then they are going to be very tough contenders. It will be a very good championship next year. We're going to see 20 very good cars and some privateers with this year's cars. What more can you expect from one season?"

"The competition is the same. The technical side is not as demanding as it was, but this is good because it cuts costs. I especially like the engine regulation where you have to stick with the same one all season, because that will attract lots of privateer teams. It means it is a cheap way to go racing, if you compare it with Super Touring in terms of engine rebuilds. If you miss a shift with a two-litre engine it blows up - in the DTM they live forever! Being able to run a season on the same set of brakes makes it cheap too. All you need to run high in the field is a good driver, a good crew chief and a good engineer...I wonder if Prodrive will come with a car next year - that would be good.

"I'm talking to TV companies, but all that stuff is not quite signed."

"No, no, no. Nurburgring is an amateur race with 150 cars and as for Daytona, no - I really stop. You will not see me in a race car again unless it's for an exhibition run. I finished in '98 as GT World Champion. I only came back because Mercedes and Norbert Haug asked me to do it for the good of the championship. Now, my racing career is finished."

"Winning the Le Mans 24 Hours three times has to be the biggest highlight. Those victories helped my career a lot, and they're very good to look back on. Then again, being five times German champion is not bad, nor is winning the GT World Championship. And all the times when I was in America, and won races in IMSA, were fantastic. I really loved racing in the US. I loved learning about the country, the people, the atmosphere of American racing. I still feel that in Europe we can learn a lot from the Americans about this. When I look back I am totally happy."

"I think it's unbelievable that I never hurt myself, and for that I am very thankful. I drove some dangerous cars like Porsche's 956 and 962..I mean, shit, a lot of guys died in those. I was so f*****g lucky."

"I'm at the age where I can relax and look back. There's a lot of things to do. I hope I can use my expertise in some other places, because that would make me proud. I'm stopping racing but I'll still be in the paddock for sure."

King Klaus bids farewell…again

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