Former Formula 1 driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Alexander Wurz has announced that he will retire from motorsport at the end of this season.
The 41 year old Austrian, who has spent almost 20 years at the top level of the sport, will make his final race appearance with the Toyota LMP1 team at the WEC 6 Hours of Bahrain on November 21.
In a statement posted on his official website, Wurz thanked the entire racing community for their support:
“I’ve enjoyed half of my lifetime competing at the top of motorsport and another quarter of it working my way up there, so I feel the time is right to call it a day and bring my career as a professional racing driver to a close,” he said.
“So a big thanks to the racing community for the challenges, the battles and the victories, and to the fans, the teams, the competitors, the organisers, the volunteers and especially to my family!”
“My future will still evolve around racing, it’s in my blood after all. Anyone who knows me, knows that I always have lots of projects on the go which includes growing my road safety and race track design business.”
Wurz was given his big break in 1996 when he was called up by Joest Racing to compete in the 1996 24 Hours of Le Mans. At the time he was a 22 year old working his way through the ranks of junior single seater formulae, but despite his relative inexperience in sportscar racing Wurz helped Davy Jones and Manuel Reuter to a famous victory aboard a Tom Walkinshaw prepared Porsche WSC 95 prototype, beating the much more fancied array of GT1 machinery.
His victory opened up several doors, including a full-season drive with AMG Mercedes in the 1997 FIA GT1 World Championship.
Wurz made his Formula 1 debut the same year, replacing Gerhard Berger for three rounds at Benetton. Despite retiring from his first two races Wurz made a big impression at the British Grand Prix, where he finished on the podium for the first time.
This led to a full-time drive with Benetton in 1998, but after three years and no further podium results Wurz changed tack for 2001, taking on a testing and development role with McLaren.
A one-off race appearance came with the British squad at the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix, where Wurz replaced the injured Juan Pablo Montoya and recorded his second career podium. He then moved to Williams, with whom he is still contracted, in 2006 and drove for the team full-time in 2007. A third place finish in Canada was to be his last appearance on the Formula 1 podium before he made his return to sportscars in 2008.
Wurz won his second 24 Hours of Le Mans with Peugeot in 2009, 13 years after his maiden win, and continued with the French manufacturer until 2012 when he signed for Toyota Racing in the World Endurance Championship.
Despite hanging up his helmet Wurz will continue to play an active role within the motorsport sphere, resuming his position as head of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association. He will also be focusing on Test and Training International, the company that he shares with his father and former rallycross champion Franz Wurz, which deals with the development of road safety strategies.