Allan McNish bids to earn himself a third and Audi a 10th Le Mans 24 Hours race victory when the Briton drives a brand new diesel-engined Audi Coupé in the annual French race (11-12 June).
The Dumfries ace drives a new Audi R18 TDI with co-drivers Dindo Capello (46/Italy) and Tom Kristensen (43/Denmark) sharing the driving duties of the “closed cockpit” Audi – the same driver combination for the past five years.
“The Le Mans race is going to be difficult for a number of reasons – even more so than in recent years,” confirmed McNish who won at Le Mans in 1998 and 2008.
“The top-five cars were covered by one second in the official test at Le Mans in April and that’s around a 8.5-mile circuit. In terms of qualifying and race pace, Audi and Peugeot are likely to be very close which suggests we have to be very good on the execution of our pit-stops, which must run like clockwork, and our race strategy.
“We’ll need to be fast but also good on fuel economy and tyre management. With over 50-cars in the field we need to be good in traffic but with the new regulations and the downsizing of engines, getting past the slower cars will be more of a challenge as we now have less power and torque. But that’s all part of racing and a key factor of the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
The 79th Le Mans 24 Hours will feature a capacity 56-car “invited” entry including three “factory” Audi R18 TDI sports-prototypes battling for honours around the 8.47-mile circuit comprising of closed public roads. The new R18 TDI is powered by a 3.7-litre, V6 single-turbo diesel engine in line with the annual race’s new regulations that have necessitated in a downsizing of engines as well as a reduction in fuel tank capacity which now stands at 65-litres for diesel engined cars.
Allan, who netted third place last year, added: “We’ve done performance and endurance tests with the R18 TDI since we ran it for the first time last November. We have had a run on the Le Mans circuit in which we finished 1-2 fastest and gave our new Coupé a third place on its race début last month at Spa.
“That race gave us drivers and engineers a feel how the car would react in race situations which can be very different to testing. We’re now at the point where we have done all of the preparation, we have done our pit-stop training, so all we can do now is focus on the race itself.”
Joining McNish/Capello/Kristensen in driving the latest diesel-engined Audi R18 TDI, which only made its race début at Spa last month (7 May), are Timo Bernhard (29/Germany)/Romain Dumas (32/France)/Mike Rockenfeller (26/Germany) plus Marcel Fässler (34/Switzerland)/André Lotterer (29/Germany)/Benoît Treluyer (34/France) – combinations who finished first and second in last year’s Le Mans race for Audi.