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Allan McNish endured disappointment in the 80th running of Le Mans 24 Hour race which saw Audi claim a historic 11th victory and 1-2-3 result in the legendary sportscar endurance race today (17 June) attended by 240,000 spectators.
McNish plus co-drivers Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Dindo Capello (Italy) ultimately brought their revolutionary diesel hybrid Audi R18 e-tron quattro home second –one-lap down on the similar hybrid drive Audi of 2011 Le Mans winners Marcel Fässler (CH)/André Lotterer (D)/Benoît Tréluyer (F).
“I am absolutely devastated for the entire team – my co-drivers Dindo and Tom, our engineers and mechanics – they all did a superb job throughout the race,”commented McNish who was in the Audi for over 9½ hours in four separate driving “stints”.
“We came back from some problems and were in a good position and fighting for victory with only a few hours to go.”
Dumfries-born McNish started the twice-around-the-clock endurance race from fourth on the 56-car grid in the R18 e-tron quattro that only made its race debut six weeks ago and has now become the first ever sportscar with this technology to win the annual Le Mans marathon.
A five minute pit-stop with 2.5hrs on the clock to rectify a handling imbalance dropped the McNish Audi from second to fifth place but was back up to second behind the “sister” diesel hybrid of Lotterer/ Fässler/Tréluyer in the seventh hour.
McNish briefly led twice in the early hours but when Fässler pitted for repairs after lightly contacting the barriers attempting to avoid a spun car, it triggered an intense battle between the two hybrid drive Audi sports cars until leader McNish went off with less than three hours remaining when attempting to lap a backmarker.
McNish added: “I came through the Porsche Curves, where it narrows, and there was a slower GT car and I expected him to move out to the right, which he didn’t do.
“I’m not sure why he didn’t but the next thing I remember was spinning backwards and hitting the barrier with the right front.
“I got the car back to the pits and the team did a fantastic job to change damaged suspension and bodywork but we lost us a lap and any chance of victory. I’m hugely disappointed.”
The Audi R18 e-tron quattro is powered by a conventional V6 turbocharged diesel engine delivering around 510hp through the rear wheels but benefits briefly from an extra near 200hp, transmitted only through its front axle above 75mph at seven specific “zones” around the 8.47-mile track, using power “harvested” under braking.
Despite his Le Mans setback McNish, a previous winner of the annual French race in 1998 & 2008, now leads the eight-race FIA World Endurance Championship by 6.5pts after three rounds and sets his sights on achieving title success come October. The fourth round of the WEC is staged at Silverstone on 26 August.
1999: 3rd (Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro/Didier Theys) Audi R8R. Also 4th (Laurent Aiello/Michele Alboreto/Dindo Capello).
2000: 1st (Frank Biela/Tom Kristensen/Emanuele Pirro) Audi R8. Also 2nd (Laurent Aiello/Allan McNish/Stéphane Ortelli) & 3rd (Christian Abt/Michele Alboreto/Dindo Capello).
2001: 1st (Frank Biela/Tom Kristensen/Emanuele Pirro) Audi R8. Also 2nd (Laurent Aiello/Dindo Capello/Christian Pescatori).
2002: 1st (Frank Biela/Tom Kristensen/Emanuele Pirro) Audi R8. Also 2nd (Dindo Capello/Johnny Herbert/Christian Pescatori), 3rd (Michael Krumm/Philipp Peter/Marco Werner) & 7th (Seiji Ara/Yannick Dalmas/Hiroki Katoh)*.
2003*: 3rd (Stefan Johansson/JJ Lehto/Emanuele Pirro) Audi R8. Also 4th (Seiji Ara/Jan Magnussen/Marco Werner).
2004*: 1st (Seiji Ara/Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen) Audi R8. Also 2nd (Jamie Davies/Johnny Herbert/Guy Smith), 3rd (JJ Lehto/Marco Werner/Emanuele Pirro) & 5th (Frank Biela/Pierre Kaffer/Allan McNish).
2005*: 1st (Tom Kristensen/JJ Lehto/Marco Werner) Audi R8. Also 3rd (Frank Biela/Allan McNish/Emanuele Pirro) & 4th (Jean-Marc Gounon/Franck Montagny/Stéphane Ortelli).
2006: 1st (Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro/Marco Werner) Audi R10 TDI. 3rd (Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish).
2007: 1st (Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro/Marco Werner) Audi R10 TDI.
2008: 1st (Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish) Audi R10 TDI. 4th (Lucas Luhr/Alexandre Prémat/Mike Rockenfeller) & 6th (Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro/Marco Werner).
2009: 3rd (Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish) Audi R15 TDI. Also 17th (Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas/Alexandre Prémat).
2010: 1st (Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas/Mike Rockenfeller) Audi R15 TDI. Also 2nd (Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Treluyer) & 3rd (Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish).
2011: 1st (Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Treluyer) Audi R18 TDI.
2012: 1st (Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer) Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Also 2nd (Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish) Audi R18 e-tron quattro, 3rd (Marco Bonanomi /Oliver Jarvis/Mike Rockenfeller) & 5th (Romain Dumas/Loïc Duval /Marc Gené) both Audi R18 ultra
1997: Retired (Qualified 11th). Roock Racing Porsche 911 GT1.
Retired due to accident damage after 30mins.
1998: 1st (Qualified 5th, AM). Porsche AG Porsche 911 GT1-98.
Led opening five hours building almost a one lap lead. Water pipe split after 14hrs losing 30mins for repairs. Swapped lead with Toyota GT1 around pit stops until latter retired with 75mins to run.
1999: Retired (Qualified 2nd). Toyota Motorsports Toyota GT-One.
Led initially then traded lead with BMW for next 12hrs until co-driver Boutsen had accident with backmarker.
2000: 2nd + Fastest Lap, AM (Qualified 1st, AM). Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R8.
Led for opening 6hrs but lost over 6mins when rear section changed after almost 7hrs due to gear shift problems. Two pit-stops (losing almost 5mins) with rear diffuser problems after 9hrs, 2mins lost when front brake disc/pad changed after 17hrs.
2004*: 5th (Qualified 2nd, AM). Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx Audi R8.
Led early stages but Allan crashed at high-speed on oil after two hours. Although suffering no injuries and declared physically fit, he was advised by race officials not to take any further part in the race. Two pit-stops for repairs cost 75mins.
2005*: 3rd (Qualified 3rd, AM). Champion Racing Audi R8.
Led after 2½hrs but lost 3mins with a pit-stop for repairs after 3½hrs when Pirro slid off at slow speed following a Safety Car period. Allan crashed out of 2nd approaching two-thirds distance when tyre delaminated. 4mins lost getting out of gravel trap and a further 18mins to repair the front suspension.
2006: 3rd (Qualified 1st). Audi Sport Audi R10 TDI.
Led most of the opening three hours. After 3½ hours, right bank of injectors were changed (losing 21 mins), 11mins lost for suspension repairs after Capello contacted backmarker, a further 19mins for additional repairs and another 15mins to change turbo.
2007: Retired (Qualified 2nd, AM). Audi Sport Audi R10 TDI.
Led from the first corner on the opening lap, dominated the race for over 16½ hours, led by over three laps but left rear wheel came off at Indianapolis Corner at around 150mph with Capello at the wheel causing instant retirement.
2008: 1st (Qualified 4th, AM). Audi Sport Audi R10 TDI.
Led after 2½ hours, slipped to second on four hours then to third an hour later but back up to second place on seven hours. Rain shower after 13hrs then Kristensen into the lead an hour later. With six hours to run and the rain falling harder, McNish led by two minutes ultimately finishing over four minutes ahead of the second-placed car having completed 381-laps, 3,227 miles at an average speed of 149.34mph in front of a record crowd of 258,000 – including an estimated 70,000 British fans.
2009: 3rd (Qualified 2nd, AM). Audi Sport Audi R15 TDI.
Slipped to fourth before briefly leading in the opening hour and thereafter remained in the top-three. Lost 13mins with suspension and electronics issues, still retaining third place. Allan drove for a total time of 8hrs 16mins on three separate stints – setting his car’s fastest lap (3min 26.632, an average speed of 147.54mph).
2010: 3rd (Qualified 6th, AM). Audi Sport Audi R15 TDI.
Placed fourth and top-placed Audi when, after almost 4½hrs, co-driver Kristensen came across a slow-moving car which moved across in front of him. Lost three laps having repairs in pits.
2011: Retired (Qualified 5th). Audi Sport Audi R18 TDI.
McNish took lead moments before a GT car hit his left rear wheel in the “La Chappelle” section after 1hr. The R18 TDI spun off the track, hit the track barrier in a heavy impact and rolled over, but Allan climbed out of the wreckage uninjured.
2012: 2nd (Qualified 4th). Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
* Denotes “customer” team