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Lowlander Lowdown: Allan McNish before the Drama

Another example of SCP indifference, or perhaps outdifference. No one in attendence at La Sarthe or keeping score at home could have predicted the dominance that was shown by the trio in R10 race number 2 for most of the race... and then the drama. The following went down after the test and just after the announcement that Tom Terrific was to return.

                                                                                     Kerry Morse

KM:  How did this year’s version of the R10 compare with the car you drove at La Sarthe in 2006 ? In particular, what changes are noticeable for you as a driver ?

McNish:  The 07 car is an evolution, it has small changes to suspension and aero which are more under the skin than anything else.  We do have a little more power than last year which is basically a little more through the range, top end is the same.  Both chassis and engine improvements go hand in hand, to use any extra power you need to put onto the ground or it is wasted!  Also we have made some improvements with Michelin on the tyre side which also helps.

KM:  Were you on the track at the same time as the Peugeot ?  Any observations on the new French diesel effort, both on the car and their driving line up ?

McNish:  I only saw the Peugeot on the first out lap in the morning, it looked nice from behind but I would prefer to see it in my mirrors!  The car, team and driver line up are there to win, this is a professional effort, you could tell at their launch, the car, team and drivers were not coming to make up the numbers.  I think they will be very fast and I have no reasons to believe they will have any reliability issues, don't forget they have had one car finish and win each race in LMS without a problem and also they both ran well in pre test.

KM:  You and Dindo have a very good chemistry and an understanding of what each does in and out of the R10. With the addition of Rocky in to the mix, what changes will this do for your race strategy ? Rocky is very quick and seems to be a far more mature driver than many much older than him.

McNish:  First of all, we have to wait on TK's situation, do the doctors allow him to race or not.  If not, then Rocky fitted in really well at the test, both physically and also integrating with Dindo and I, he has a similar driving style, is fast and aggressive, has good sportscar experience, albeit in Grand AM and GT, and he knows how win at the 24 hours. It is obviously easier on the whole team if Tom can drive but if not then Rocky fits the bill.

KM:  Any comments on the tests ?

McNish:  We were running a lot of data acquisition equipment on our car in the test day, this was possible with 3 cars allowing us to spread the testing loads across all cars.  This was mostly in the morning session and in the afternoon we concentrated getting km's on Rocky in an R10 TDI and also doing some smaller set up work with Dindo.  At the end of the test day red flags disturbed my final runs but I would say it was the same for everyone. Le Mans test day is always difficult to read the competitions true pace, this one was no exception. Fastest lap times depend so much on if someone "went for it" with qualifying tyres, also traffic is a major player, a slower car out of Tetre Rouge onto the Mulsanne is now nearly a 2 second loss in lap time so I always wait until qualifying for real before making too many deductions in outright pace, saying that you can get an idea on race paces and get a first feel for new cars, as we had with the new Peugeot and Pescarolo last week.

KM:  The R10 has had a mixed time this season in the ALMS and your frustration has been evident due to a number of factors. Now that you are back to the race that the car was originally designed for, how do you adjust your training and mindset. As an example, after Le Mans, you go right back to a track that will not favor the R10.

McNish:  I do not change my mind set much between races, at Le Mans we obviously have another driver to consider in the car and that effects the dynamic a little but in terms of preparation there is not much difference. Basically I push myself, the car and the team to the maximum all the time, it is the only way I know which I think maybe shows sometimes.

KM:  Audi seems to have mounted a huge effort for this edition of les 24 heures, you have been part of both small team and large team assaults. What are the advantages and disadvantages of such a large effort ?

McNish:  Large teams only have an advantage when they are well run, if they are not then it can be a disaster, you see that in all categories.  Luckily I have only been with good organisations in Le Mans with the correct backing such as engineering, mechanics, driver facilities, doctors, etc. I can see some of my friends in other teams having to struggle getting food in the middle of the night or their overalls and helmets dried, these are not issues in well organised teams. This year we have 3 cars, that could be a dilution of efforts if not ran well, however, with Audi Sport thankfully it is more of an advantage.

KM:  I assume you will try and follow the USGP while having your own race. Your old employer in the form of Toyota is having a rough time of it, do you still keep in contact with anyone or has this been a complete turnover of personal ?

McNish:  Yes, I saw the Toyota boys at the Monaco GP and still keep in touch with some of them.  The main part of the race team are still the same and there are a lot of good people there, it is frustrating to see those guys not getting the results. As for the masses back at base in Cologne, I presume it has had a natural F1 team turnaround of personnel.

KM:  1997 was your first run at Le Mans, right ? A short stint as I recall, then it all came right the next year and you were part of Porsche’s 50th anniversary capped by the big victory. Any thoughts on how many years you will keep returning to France in mid June ?

McNish:  I am sure I will be returning with my son many years after I have stopped driving, telling him how daddy used to race here in an Audi R10 TDI diesel with Uncle Dindo and Uncle Tom. As for racing there, let's get this one past first.

And then this follow up after TK’s press conference….

KM:  So Tom is returning to keep you and Dindo in line, what happens and are there any changes ?

McNish:  Now that it is confirmed that TK is back the whole team can get down to it's job.  It is always unsettling when you don't know the team make up until the last moment. But now we have to beat Rocky as he is in the sister car!!!  Joking apart, it is a big strength of Audi Sport to have that depth of talent available.

Four days after the race giving Nishy time to think about it….

I think have never been so disappointed in my career, to be so dominant for so long and have it all go wrong.  Anyway, could have been worse I suppose !!!

                                                                                       Kerry Morse
                                                                      June 2007

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Features and pieces by Kerry Morse