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Allan McNish contests the penultimate round of the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship on Sunday (14 Oct) knowing that victory at Mount Fuji in Japan is critical in terms of the Scotsman’s title aspirations.
McNish and co-driver Tom Kristensen (Den) start the Fuji Six Hours 13.5-points behind Audi Sport team-mates Marcel Fässler (CH)/André Lotterer (D)/Benoît Tréluyer (F) after six of this season’s eight races.
McNish & Kristensen switched back to the hybrid diesel Audi R18 e-tron quattro for the Bahrain race last month but a series of minor but time-consuming issues saw the Anglo-Danish combination finish second to the similar Audi of Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer which has now won three of the last four races.
Effectively, McNish and Kristensen must finish ahead of their “factory” Audi team-mates in Japan plus the China finale and ideally win the last two races.
“Tom and I could quite easily have been starting Fuji leading the championship but a series of problems delayed our car in Bahrain last month and ‘gifted’ Marcel, André and Ben another victory,” confirmed McNish.
“I’d started from pole-position and initially led but ultimately TK and I finished second – a fantastic 1-2 result for Audi but disappointing for me personally in terms of the title race so in Japan it’s win at all costs.”
Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at 12,389ft and is an active stratovolcano lying around 60-miles south-west of Tokyo with the 2.84-mile track nestling in its shadows. The Formula One World Championship was decided in James Hunt’s favour 36 years ago at Mount Fuji – the weather very wet with fog and running water at several places on the track.
Allan continued: “I’m looking forward to going back to Japan. It’s a country I have spent a lot of time in previously – in the McLaren Formula One testing days in the early 1990s, sportscars at Suzuka (1997 & ’98) and the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka 2002 and then Friday F1 testing duties the following year.
“I’ve only driven on the newly revised [Fuji] circuit in an Audi R8 roadcar. The track still has character from the previous generation featuring a fast flowing first section. But a very technical and difficult last sector with camber and elevation changes could be a race deciding section in terms of slow ‘traffic’ through this section.
“Another element could be the weather which, at this time of the year, can be changeable especially as Fuji is situated on the side of a mountain – when it does rain it’s very heavy so we will have to be prepared for all conditions whether it be hot or wet.
“But whatever the weather the sportscar race at Fuji will witness a lot of fan support – the Japanese love motorsport.”
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 four specific “zones” using power “harvested” under braking.
A test session will be held on Wednesday, practice sessions on Friday and Saturday prior to qualifying, also on Saturday (0600-0620*) for the anticipated 30-car entry. The race begins at 0300* on Sunday (14 Oct).
* All times are UK & are -8hrs Japan
2012 FIA World Endurance Championship (after 6 rounds)
Driver’s: 1st Marcel Fässler (CH)/André Lotterer (D)/Benoît Tréluyer (F), 139.5pts. 2nd Allan McNish (GB)/Tom Kristensen (DEN), 126pts. LMP1 Manufacturers': 1stAudi*, 173pts. 2nd Toyota, 44pts (*Audi already Champions).