Britain’s Allan McNish will start his diesel-engined Audi R18 TDI sportscar from fifth position on the grid for the 79th Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race in France on Saturday afternoon (2pm BST) bidding to earn Audi a 10th Le Mans victory.
Record eight-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen improved co-driver McNish’s overnight fourth fastest lap time (3mins 28.301secs) in last night’s (THURS) final four hour time trials. The “Great Dane” stopped the clock at 3:26.165 (147.89mph) around the 8.47-mile circuit.
While the McNish/Kristensen/Dindo Capello Audi slipped one place on the capacity 56-car grid from Wednesday’s time trials, drama occurred when Kristensen crashed at high-speed at Tertre Rouge in the dying moments of qualifying on what was set to be a faster lap. The Dane was completely unhurt but the Audi was sidelined with substantial damage.
“Tom’s incident at the end was unfortunate but these things happen – it’s part of motor racing – it’s part of pushing,” confirmed McNish. “But what really bodes well is that there are six cars covered by around half a second at the front of the grid. That means that we have got a fantastic race ahead.”
While McNish will line-up the repaired V6 turbo diesel Audi R18 TDI Coupé on the third row of the capacity 56-car grid – the trio having amassed an incredible 13 Le Mans victories between them – the front row is an Audi “lock out”.
The similar “factory” entered Audi R18 TDI sportscar of Marcel Fässler (35/Switzerland)/André Lotterer (30/Germany)/Benoît Treluyer (34/France) starts from pole-position after the latter posted a 3:25.738 (148.197mph) last night (THURS).
2010 Le Mans winners Timo Bernhard (30/Germany)/Romain Dumas (33/France)/Mike Rockenfeller (27/Germany) complete the front row after Dumas clocked a 3mins 25.799 (148.134mph) in their R18 TDI which only made its race debut last month (8 May).
The race, in which Audi finished 1-2-3 last year, is scheduled to start at 2pm (BST).