Britain’s Allan McNish sets out to score his fourth and Audi’s 10th race victory in the season-opening Sebring 12 Hours in Florida on Saturday (19 March).
Audi “factory” ace McNish begins a hectic seven race, nine month Intercontinental Le Mans Cup campaign and is determined to get his and Audi’s season off to a flying start.
McNish shares a revised diesel-engined Audi R15 TDI with regular co-drivers Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Dindo Capello (Italy), the trio looking to sign off the R15 TDI sportscar’s career on a winning note.
“Tom, Dindo and I will race the Audi R15 TDI as opposed to our new R18 which is not race ready yet so the Coupé’s first public outing will be at the ‘test weekend’ for the Le Mans 24 Hours in April and race début at Spa the following month,” confirmed Dumfries-born McNish.
“So we’ll be trying hard to give the ‘old girl’ one last victory in its 10th and final scheduled race. Tom, Dindo and I gave the R15 TDI a début race win at Sebring in 2009, the first of three race wins this particular Audi model scored over the past two years.
“The last win for the R15 TDI was at Le Mans last year when Audi achieved a fabulous 1-2-3 result while Tom and I were very close to adding to that tally in my last race in China last November. So we know the R15 TDI’s reliability record and its performance envelope so believe we can take the chase to the competition.”
New technical regulations from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) for 2011 prompted Audi to develop the “closed cockpit” R18. Older models like the R15 TDI may only compete in heavily modified form with greatly restricted engine power and a smaller fuel tank.
A field of over 50-cars is expected to contest the 59th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, the McNish/Kristensen/Capello Audi Sport Team Joest entry backed up by the “sister” R15 TDI of 2010 Le Mans 24 Hour winning combination of Timo Bernhard (D)/Romain Dumas (F)/Mike Rockenfeller (D).
Audi’s arch-rival Peugeot will compete at the 3.7 mile, 17-corner Sebring International Raceway – America’s premier sports car racing facility nestling amongst the orange groves and cattle ranches of central Florida which is the oldest permanent road racing track in North America.
The last time Audi raced at Sebring in 2009, 170,800 spectators attended the race meeting. Legends Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio have previously won the annual race which has also attracted the likes of Steve McQueen, Gene Hackman, Paul Newman and Patrick Dempsey.
Allan added: “Sebring is one of the hardest races because it is the opening race of the year while it’s invariably staged in hot and humid weather conditions. The circuit is fast, intense and bumpy requiring 100% concentration throughout.
“I raced at Sebring for the first time in 1997 and won while in the 12 Hour race itself, have won it three times finishing on the podium six times from seven starts, so it has been a happy hunting ground for me and I’m very much looking to continue that trend in 2011.
“I like the circuit because it is an ‘old style’ circuit and hasn’t changed much since Stirling Moss raced there first in the mid-1950s. The track surface is bumpy with some nasty kerbing at some corners all of which we don’t see in Europe, especially not at circuits used for Formula 1 races, but I think it gives it a lot of character. Additionally there is always a mega crowd generating an electric atmosphere.”