Since SCP had been reprogrammed to be a monthly, if that, occasionally
something newsworthy gets overlooked. Or ignored. Letís face it, 2009 has
been a bringdown of a year for the most part; just not that many daily or
weekly items worth following up on. The upcoming Petit Le Mans comes at
the right time to shake things up. Peugeot sticking it to Audi, in a market
that the French abandoned years ago, put Ingolstadt in a position where they
had to show up. So they shall. McNish hasnít been doing much but has
managed to stay in shape by working on his house and driving here and
there. Right now he is at Sears Point doing his Audi corporate penance by
showing off the R8 V10 for the assorted hacks and scribes. Marketing and
PR should have included Dindo Capello who is actually racing a GT3 R8 in
Italy. Now that would have been something, Dindo sideways in turn 11 with a
journalist holding in his hospitality lunchÖ
The following piece was done for an Audi Club print publication and is worthy
of posting here in the original text as originally published. The tone may be
less acidic from my usual style but Nishy gets to the core of why he
continues to push ahead. Hopefully Audi Sport will bring their ďAĒ game to
Atlanta with a sorted out R15. They owe it to him and Dindo.
Allan McNish on the 2009 Twelve Hours of Sebring
The Audi R15, itís big win on the maiden voyage, the competition, the
drivers, and the upcoming race in France.
Allan McNish is one of the sports great drivers with an impressive resume. A
former factory driver for Toyota, Renault and Porsche, McNish was one of the
mainstays of Audi Sport when the Ingolstadt steamroller debuted the R8 in
the American Le Mans Series back in 2000. After a return stint in Formula
One, McNish was back at Audi aboard the revolutionary R10 diesel and the
He continues to show what it takes to be a winner as well as a favorite
among the fans.
Morse: With the exception of your time in F1, have you ever driven at such a
consistent pace during your stints? Was the pace easier or more difficult due
to smaller field and that traffic was less of an issue? That had to be a
change in your closing speed on cars running in the other classes.
McNish: The last two or three years has been flat out driving from the
beginning of our stint to the end. The cars are now so reliable that you can
drive it like a single seater in a sprint race. Reliability problems are few as
long as you keep your nose clean in traffic. But I look at Petit Le Mans in
07, Laguna 07, ALMS races last year, Silverstone or even when Le Mans,
then it has been the case where you just give it your all. Sebring certainly
was with the heightened intensity with Acura coming along. It brought more
focus but the pace was maybe easier to keep at a high level because there
was less traffic. However, because there was less traffic it was more difficult
to fill a gap or gain an advantage but on the other side of that there was less
pickup off line so you could overtake easier. I think in general it was nice to
drive because there was many more clear laps, you were able to really gain.
McNIsh: Most of the testing was done in Southern Europe as we normally
do however it was pretty cold in Southern Europe and very wet at times, so
everything we tried to do was interrupted by the weather. From that point of
view it was a little bit of a new situation when we got to Sebring because of
the heat and to be honest it was the first time we had gotten the tires up to a
true working temperature. The initial impressions of the R15 were quite
different to the R10 and the R8. When I first got in to the R8 I have to say it
didnít suit me at all and it took a wee bit of time for us to get the balance
right and for me to feel at one with the car. The R10 was very quick straight
away and quite raw and it took some confidence to throw it around and get
away with it. The R15 for me was a very manageable car even on the first lap
that I drove, I knew what it was going to do. The feedback from it was very
good, the agility was very good, so I was very impressed and pleased with
the fact that they had got a good racing car straight away. And after that we
had to work to see if it had the sheer outright lap performance we would need
to try to win Le Mans again.
Morse: Did your overall impressions change from the test once you got in
the car under race conditions and had to deal with the Peugeot. Were you
surprised by the initial speed of the Acura in qualifying and then only to see it
fade so quickly in the race?
McNish: I think when you are testing and doing it in a very unaesthetic
environment and you are going through a series of changes in programs and
things like that and you are looking for direct, quantifiable results. There is
only one competition and that is a lap time and the lap time is usually
against the previous generation car. When we got to Sebring that was our
first time we had a direct comparison with Peugeot and Acura. It was the first
time we saw them live, it was the first time we knew what they were capable
of doing and even then we knew it was going to be a tough battle, whichever
way, just because of the way races usually are. I would say now coming out
of the race, even after a win, we have just as long a list of things that we need
to work on in comparison to what we had last year when we didnít have as
good of a twelve hours of Sebring. Itís a different list but certainly there is no
better way to push your car forward better than racing. I was a little bit
surprised with the speed of the Acura in qualifying but when I stood with
Dindo and watched the car going through I knew that Brabs and Dixon were
extremely committed and with that level of commitment to get that lap time I
knew they were going to struggle in the race. Right now itís their first LMP1
season and we have been doing this since 2000 and Peugeot has been doing
it for three years. So itís not a surprise in race one of Acura stepping up to
LMP1, which is a different category completely than LMP2, there is no
question about the competition being tougher. They didnít quite hit it spot on
for the actual race. But you could see some of their performance straight
away in testing. They were losing quite a lot in the corners and not so much
in the straights, they definitely were not as quick as us or Peugeot. But
thatís an area that they will gain quite quickly.
McNish: I feel that you can never stop development, never, ever, ever. Thatís
why the human race is where it is in everything. When you reduce
performance all it means is that the designer and engineers will look in
different areas to gain that performance back. And thatís the same with the
drivers, we drive in different ways to get that performance back. Its not that
we drive faster or harder or anything, we just use the machinery slightly
differently. And a lot of people have forgotten about tire development. It is
one of the big areas of performance, itís not just horsepower, itís tire
development as well and in that side of things it is very clear that Michelin is
an extremely good tire manufacturer, no question about it. And every year
we understand and develop a little bit more about the car and we make it
better and we understand and develop a bit more about the engine and make
it better. The same with the tires, drivers as well, we just mature into things
and that just means the cars are going quicker and coupled with the
competition is the fact that we had to give it everything. The driving standard
was better than it has ever been before at Sebring and generally the records
were falling very quickly.
Morse: Were you surprised by Bourdais flyer of a lap in the Peugeot ?
Under the circumstances it was unreal and almost as if to say ďHey, there is
that race in France during June, we will be readyĒ.
McNish: The radio message just came to me just out of turn 17 that
Bourdais had turned that lap time. I was at a 44 at that time and that was as
fast as I could go and I was on a clean lap. It was at the end of a stint and
very low fuel, under those circumstances lap times are usually very quick. It
just proves that they are very fast.
Morse: We have become so jaded, long distance races used to be won with
a lead of several laps, usually by miles. Now it comes down to a matter of
seconds, let alone minutes.
McNish: There are two things I think here, one that long distance races
historically have been won by reliability and won by conservative driving. Now
the capability of the cars is such that you can drive them flat out in every way
and they will finish the race. So now itís down to performance and that is
driver, team and car performance. And with the manufacturers that are
involved from the last few years, itís very clear that none of them want to lose.
It is one of the great things in motor racing history. They know how to be
successful and that just pushes the development forward and pushes people
to the limits that theyíve never done before.
Morse: With the limited schedule and other than your sponsorship duties,
what are you doing to keep sharp and in shape. As you said, a two race
canoe, Sebring and Le Mans.
McNish: Prior to Le Mans, I actually donít have very much of a different
schedule than any other year. There is normally two races in between
Sebring and Le Mans and so that is effectively two race weekends that I am
missing so that is about seven days in total for the first six months of the
year. However racing is what itís about and you have to stay very sharp. I
think it will probably be more critical leading into 2010 than necessarily prior
to Le Mans 2009. But there is a lot of time to go between now and then. We
still have the big race at Le Mans coming up for this year. Certainly training
and focus and all the testing will keep us as sharp as we can be.
Morse: One of the most interesting aspects is that you, TK and Dindo were
on top of the time sheets most of the time above the #1 squad with the two
ďyoutsĒ. Both Rocky and Luhr have the talent and also the benefit of Audi
Sport seat time. What keep you old guys going? TK is TK, Dindo may be
driving better now than at any other time and you just keep going for it.
McNish: I think you are right, you are fast or your not, you are clever in
traffic or youíre not, you are able to conserve your energy or you are not,
youíre fit or youíre not. I think I am driving with two of the best guys, not just
of this era but of any era in sports cars, and both of them are very fit and both
of them are very aggressive and both of them want to win. Both of them have
a similar driving style to myself and weíve come up against a lot of other
opposition. Certainly there is obviously a push through of the Audi youth
brigade for the future and that is entirely 100 percent correct. But we know
how to win, we like to win, we donít want to lose and I think you could see
that motivation at any point in any one of our driving stints through Sebring.
We donít want to finish second.
Morse: Have you driven the GT3 version of the R8?
McNish: I have not driven the GT3 version of the R8 yet and thatís not to say
that I will. Dindo is racing one in the Italian GT Series.
Morse: Thanks for all this and good luck at Le Mans. Maybe we can do part
two on how you won the upcoming les 24 heures.
McNish: I will look forward to that.
April now August 2009