We kind of thought the end was near at Le Mans this year, as Rinaldo "Dindo" Capello shook off the wreath from around his shoulders after earning a second-place result with regular teammates Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish - on his 48th birthday. It seemed like a weight lifted from Dindo's shoulders as he heaved the flowers toward the mass of humanity that congregated below the podium bridge next to the Le Mans start/finish line. With that huge smile on his face he seemed relieved.
Just this week Capello declared the end of his endurance racing career, leaving pilotage of the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro to his teammates for the balance of the FIA World Endurance Championship - including the next, British race at Silverstone the final weekend of August. As a trio, and racing the Audi R18-Plus, Capello, Kristensen and McNish won the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring and finished second in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro hybrid car in the 24 Heures du Mans.
Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish - Audi photoEnlarge Photo
Capello had an agreement with Audi to quit following Le Mans, after the Italian devoted 19 racing years with the German car maker. He will continue to be closely associated with the brand as an ambassador - which he's been without even trying - and also as an Audi dealer and as a racer continuing to drive Audi's R8 LMS in GT3 contests.
For nearly two decades, Dindo Capello has brought Audi race victories, prestigious championship titles and other successes in both sports and touring cars. He's scored almost all of his major successes since 1994 in Audi race cars. In 1996 the racer from Canelli was Italian Super Touring Car champion in an Audi A4 quattro. Two of his three Le Mans wins came with Audi and all five of his victories at Sebring, together with two American Le Mans Series championships were all at the wheel of Audi LMP sports prototypes.
"This is an extremely unusual string of successes and a very emotional moment," said Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi's motosports activities, whose signing of Capello cemented his successful career. "On behalf of Audi I would like to express a huge thank you to Dindo. In terms of the sport as well as in a personal and professional sense," he continued, "it has always been a pleasure to work with Dindo and to know that he was part of our team. He is a valuable brand ambassador and we are delighted to see him continue to be associated with Audi after the end of his active career."
In addition to his superlative racing career, Capello has an interest in three Audi centers in his native Piedmont area of Italy. He's also been competing for Audi Sport Italia in the Italian GT Championship since 2009, racing an Audi R8 LMS.
The all-Audi photo finish at Le Mans - Audi photoEnlarge Photo
"I would like to address a really, really big thank you to Audi; it has become my brand - professionally and based on my personal conviction," Capello stressed. "Together we have achieved so much and demonstrated pioneering achievements again and again. Naturally, there is a feeling of sadness, as this departure from the factory team is not easy, but I remain associated with the brand and will continue to contest races because the Audi R8 LMS ultra is a wonderful GT3 vehicle," he said.
"I am saying goodbye with a clear conscience because I have no unfinished business with my sport. In all disciplines and categories, Audi and I together have achieved the maximum with victories and titles. I wanted to quit," Capello emphasized, "at a time when I was still able to show top performances. This is a pleasant feeling. Should Audi ever get into a situation in which I'm needed I'll of course be ready to assist."
Memo to Audi - find a reason!