Adelaide, Australia - Audi driver Allan McNish has been forced to put his championship celebrations on ice after sustaining a back injury that could ultimately deprive the "Flying Scotsman" of the American Le Mans Series title.
The Audi ace is praying that resting today will relieve a back problem which should then enable him to compete in the 12th and final round of the series tomorrow evening (SUN), a grueling six-hour race around the streets of Adelaide.
Having scored five of Audi's eight wins in the endurance sportscar championship that has visited North America, Europe and Australia since March, McNish currently leads the championship.
McNish, who celebrated his 31st birthday yesterday (FRI), tweaked his back when taking off a kilt for a publicity event moments before he was due to drive his 200mph Audi sportscar in warm-up trials yesterday (FRI). After just four laps around the demanding 2.4-mile track, the pain was too excruciating for him to continue.
"As soon as I got out of the car, the Audi doctor worked on my back," confessed McNish. "I spent four hours on the massage table in the pit garage and then went to a local hospital for a second opinion late that evening. Doctors found nothing seriously wrong and I wasn't detained. The pain at the base of my back has subsided overnight but it still remains tender.
"I was due to drive the car in further trials today (SAT) but instead stayed in my hotel. The Audi doctor visited me twice during the day and hopefully the day's rest will enable me to compete in the race."
Regulations stipulate that McNish must complete a minimum of 25-laps of tomorrow's race to ensure he qualifies as an official starter.
Audi has drafted in Australian Brad Jones as a reserve to drive alongside Rinaldo Capello should McNish be forced out after a final decision as to his fitness is taken tomorrow (SUN) morning.
Jones had his first-ever run in the Audi R8 during today's (SAT) unofficial trials. Ironically should Allan not race, McNish's regular co-driver Capello would snatch the series title if the Italian claims a top-four result.
The nomination of Brad Jones who in 1996 won the Australian Super Touring Car Championship in an Audi A4 quattro is a pure precautionary measure. "We came to Australia to do a race and we owe it to the many thousands of spectators that we compete with both R8 cars. Therefore we want to take every possible measure. Apart from that, it's nice to have an Australian sitting our crocodile R8," says Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Sport.
Adelaide's Race Of A Thousand Years will be televised same day on a tape-delay basis on NBC from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on December 31st.