AUDI BIDS FOR FIFTH LE MANS "MARATHON" TRIUMPH British ace McNish hoping for a second Le Mans 24 Hour win Allan McNish bids for his second and Audi's fifth Le Mans 24 Hour race victory in the 73rd running of the famous twice-around-the-clock...
AUDI BIDS FOR FIFTH LE MANS "MARATHON" TRIUMPH
British ace McNish hoping for a second Le Mans 24 Hour win
Allan McNish bids for his second and Audi's fifth Le Mans 24 Hour race victory in the 73rd running of the famous twice-around-the-clock marathon motor race which begins on Saturday (18 June, 1500BST). The 35-year-old Monaco-based Scotsman lines-up for the Audi UK supported two-car Team ADT Champion Racing squad looking to repeat his 1998 Le Mans triumph. McNish co-drives with triple Le Mans winners Frank Biela (D) and Emanuele Pirro (It) while a second Audi R8 sportscar is piloted by JJ Lehto (Fin), Marco Werner (D) plus Tom Kristensen (Den) - the latter attempting to make history with a record seventh outright Le Mans win.
"With the Audi R8 and Champion Racing, we have a proven car and team package combined with an extremely strong, two-car driver line-up," commented Allan who finished second at Le Mans for Audi in 2000 having clocked the pole-position time and fastest race lap. "Audi will race a new car next year at Le Mans and I'd love to give the Audi R8 a final victory send off at La Sarthe."
Audi monopolised the top-two positions last year for the fourth time since 2000 but McNish suffered heartache - or to be more precise, a severe headache. "I had set the fastest time in the pre-race test and qualified second to Veloqx team-mate Johnny Herbert for the race. But shortly before two hours and with the leading Herbert Audi just 25secs ahead, I skated off the track on oil at the high-speed Porsche Curves. JJ [Lehto] in the Champion Audi followed me in to the barriers seconds later.
"I was momentarily stunned by the heavy impact with the barriers but nursed the badly damaged Audi back to the pits. Once out of the car, I was immediately examined by doctors from Audi before being taken to the circuit's Medical Centre for a precautionary check-up. Suffering no injuries and declared physically fit apart from nursing a bad headache, I was advised by race officials not to take any further part in the race so last year was a huge, personal disappointment. Our car lost 75mins in the pits making repairs but my co-drivers recovered from 46th place to take fifth in my absence."
The Florida-based Audi Sport North America Champion Racing team has achieved third place at Le Mans for the past two years but now aims for overall victory. It would be the first triumph for a privateer US team at Le Mans and the first for an American team since 1967. Meanwhile the French Oreca team, Le Mans winners in 1991, aims for "home rule" with a third Audi R8 - leased from Audi UK - in the 50-car field driven by French trio Jean-Marc Gounon, Franck Montagny and Stephane Ortelli.
Audi competes in the Le Mans 24 Hours for the seventh time. Since the German car manufacturer's Le Mans debut in 1999, it scored wins for three consecutive years 2000-2002 (Biela/Pirro/Kristensen) plus 2004 (Ara/Capello/Kristensen) and has recorded 13 winners' rostrum places encompassing all seven years. The Audi R8 sportscar has scored 54 victories in 66 races worldwide. But the Le Mans race organisers have landed the R8 with 50 kilograms more ballast (950 instead of 900kg) this year. Additionally, the regulations stipulate an even smaller engine air intake restrictor than in previous years. The power of the V8 twin-turbocharged engine, featuring FSI fuel-saving technology, has therefore dropped to approximately 520-bhp - compared with in excess of 600-bhp in 2000.
Allan added: "I think this year's Le Mans is going to be one of the most competitive I have raced in with several cars capable of victory. The last couple of races in the American Le Mans Series and the first round of the Le Mans Endurance Series prove that Audi will have a fight on its hands." The temporary 8.48-mile Le Mans track, utilising some closed public roads, is used exclusively for the 24 Hour race event each year. The only opportunity to test in advance is during a one-day practice held recently (5 June) in which the Champion Audis set the fourth (Lehto/Werner) and eighth (Biela/Pirro) fastest times. Kristensen and McNish were unable to attend this test at Le Mans due to their commitments for the "factory" Audi team in a DTM race at Brno in the Czech Republic the same day.
Wed 15 & Thurs 16 Jun: 1800-2000 Qualifying 1. 2100-2300 Qualifying 2
Fri 17 Jun: 1400-1530 Audi Press Conference (ACO Museum). 1700-1800 Drivers' parade
Sat 18 Jun: 0800-0845 Warm-Up. 1422 Start procedure. 1500 73rd Le Mans 24 Hours (start) - Dr. Martin Winterkorn, the Chairman of the Audi AG Board, will be the honorary starter
* All times above are BST (+1hr for Central European)