by: Tom Haapanen, Sports Car Correspondent
- McNish unhurt, cleared by medical teams
- Beltoise did not see McNish, only Bernhard
Massive hit confirms safety of Audi monocoque
Allan McNish met with the media today, and described the heavy impact he survived yesterday, in the early stages of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans
The events started when McNish made a move on his teammate and race leader Timo Bernhard, passing under the Dunlop Bridge, as Berhnard ran wide on the left side of the track. As he made his way past the other Audi, he immediately encountered Anthony Beltoise in the Luxury Racing Ferrari 458.
“Timo was leading, I was in second,” McNish recounted. “I came down the inside of the Ferrari, and given the room never even thought there could be a collision.”
Beltoise, though, was not aware of the second Audi – he earlier confirmed that he had only seen Bernhard in his mirrors – as he moved back to the racing line on the right-hand side of the track. The two cars barely touched, but it was enough to send McNish’s Audi skimming sideways across a gravel trap and then into the barriers and into the air. It landed on its roof, with bits of bodywork flying all around.
I put it down to one of these racing incidents.
“I put it down to one of these racing incidents,” said McNish. “It's Part of Le Mans, it's part of the fact that you have to get through 24 hours.”
There seemed to be little left of the car, but after the marshals uprighted the car, McNish got out of the car and walked away on his own.
“The first thing you think?” McNish recalled. “Right, how do I get out of here? I'd radio to the pit but there was no radio communication, which worried them a little bit. I knew I was fine but they didn't know that.”
“I knew it was OK,” he continued. “The marshals opened the left-hand door and I told them I was OK, and told them to be slow righting the car, it still weighed 850 kg or something. If need be, I would have tried to crawl out of the left-hand door.”
McNish was sent to the track medical centre for checks, then to the local hospital, and finally the team’s doctor and chiropractor gave him the green light.
Meanwhile, McNish actually had initial thoughts of getting his car going after the accident. “There were no front wheels and no back section, though, so I figured the chances of getting (the car) back on track were minimal!”
While the bodywork, wheels and suspension had been sheared off by the impact, the carbon-fibre monocoque and cockpit were remarkably intact, protecting McNish as he made impact with the wall, flying backwards.
“When you saw the velocity of the accident it made me very thankful,” the Scot admitted. “First of all I was in an Audi, which is very strong, and the guys that designed it did a bloody good job. It's a big tick for the regulations and definitely a big tick for the constructions guys at Audi.”