SILVERSTONE LMES CHAMPION McNISH RETURNS FOR ENDURO RACE DEFENCE
Allan McNish will unexpectedly bring an end to his successful association with the Audi R8 sportscar on "home" soil.
The 35-year-old Scotsman drives the most successful sports-prototype of the modern day era in the Le Mans Endurance Series race at Silverstone on Saturday (13 Aug).
McNish will race the Audi PlayStation Team Oreca R8 with Stephane Ortelli, the 35-year-old Frenchman who Allan won the Le Mans 24 Hours alongside in 1998.
McNish is contesting the 11-race DTM (German Touring Car Masters) in a "factory" Audi A4DTM this year but has jumped at the chance of driving the Audi R8 for one last time.
"The Audi R8 has re-written the history books concerning sportscar racing," confirmed McNish. "I raced it in its debut season in 2000 and I'm delighted to be bringing my association with the Audi R8 to a close in Britain.
"Audi must build a brand new car for next year's Le Mans 24 Hours due to regulation changes which means the Audi R8 cannot race at Le Mans or in the LMES next season."
McNish has contested 19 races in the Audi R8, scoring nine wins, since March 2000 and has claimed second and third place finishes in the Sebring 12 Hours (19 Mar) and Le Mans 24 Hours (18-19 Jun) respectively this year.
Allan added: "I was only scheduled to race the R8 at Sebring and Le Mans for the Audi UK supported American Champion Racing team this year as I'm concentrating on the DTM. But I've been given the chance by Audi Sport, Audi UK and Oreca to drive at Silverstone and it's too good an opportunity to miss."
McNish will actually drive the very same Audi R8 chassis that the Dumfries-born ace swept to victory in last year's corresponding Silverstone LMES race. Last August, McNish and Pierre Kaffer headed an impressive Audi 1-2-3 but McNish is under no illusion that Saturday's 620-mile race will be tough.
"Despite Audi ultimately claiming a 1-2-3 result at Silverstone, we were not the outright fastest cars," continued McNish. 'I qualified over 2.3-secs off pole-position and was down almost a second on race pace but this year will be even more difficult for us.
"Compared to last year, the Audi R8 carries 50kg more ballast while a smaller air intake restrictor reduces the power to around 520bhp. In comparison, when I drove the Audi R8 in 2000, the power was over 600bhp.
At Silverstone, the Audi R8 will battle against cars in the LM P1 class weighing in 230kg (507lb) lighter.
Allan confirmed: "That's over 4½cwt which is a very significant amount of weight to give away around the 3.194-mile Silverstone circuit - especially with reduced power."
Since its race debut in March 2000, the Audi R8 has achieved 58 outright race wins - including five Le Mans 24 Hour victories - from 70 race starts and has never retired from a race with a mechanical problem.
McNish, who contests the seventh round of the DTM at the Nurburgring on Sunday (7 Aug), concluded: "I last drove with Stephane [Ortelli] when we finished second for Audi at Le Mans in 2000. We get on well together and I see a lot of him because we both live in Monaco. It'll be really nice to team up with him again."
For Ortelli, who also drove the Audi Sport UK entered Audi R8C in the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours, the Silverstone race marks his fourth in an Audi R8.
Friday 12 August: Practice (0900-1000; 1145-1245; 1615-1715).
Saturday 13 August: Qualifying (0945-1025); Race (1600).