McNish and Capello: Goodbye Baby and Amen!
Audi Sport is off to a good start this season despite the disappointment at not
capturing another overall win at Sebring. Luhr and Werner have picked up the
pace after it was announced that Allan McNish and Dindo Capello would be
contesting the Le Mans Series and in effect, Sebring was the pairing’s
farewell to racing in the U.S. That, of course, led to this conversation over
coffee the morning after the 12 hours.
KM: Give me each your separate recollections as far as being teammates, of
racing over here or things you absolutely detest.
McNish: The things that I really enjoyed about it was that here you have the
same groups and organizations throughout the whole year, year after year, for
example the pit lane marshals, the same guys, the safety workers, the same
guys and you build up a bond, and an understanding and they know when
something is right or wrong as well as you do but there is a personal
relationship and in Europe we don’t have that relationship. You go to each
different circuit and it’s a new group of marshals a new group of safety people,
it’s a new pitlane person, there is no understanding there at all, there is no
KM: What, no euro version of Marty Kaufman and Dick Martin, the original
IMSA Sunshine Boys? They are going to be thrilled hearing this.
McNish: Sure they will, they penalized Dindo yesterday, which was great by
the way, but we don’t always agree with their decisions but at least by the
end of the day we know that the next week we can go and say to them why
did you do that? Or we didn’t agree with that and they will give the reasons
behind the call and in Europe you get penalized and then you don’t see the
guy for two and a half years. And I think that is something that we in Europe
need to bring across as far as officiating.
KM: Dindo, wasn’t Sebring your first race over here?
Capello: Yes, OK… Sebring at night time because if I remember that was
my first race in the R8R and I was together with Michele Alboreto and Stefan
Johansson which for me, as Italian, you know was very big.
KM: Ah, the Ferrari connection.
Capello: Yes, when I was a kid they at the time I was dreaming to be like
them and suddenly, 20 years later, I was racing together with them in the
same crowd, that was something strange. Sometimes I think about that
because I remember the first time I met Michele the first I was 17 and I was
only racing locally and 20 years later I was in the same car with him racing
the Sebring 12 hour and that was something that you know……….something
in our sport. I don’t know if there are other sports where a young fan can join
20 years later. I think that our sport is the only one where you can do that
because football, when you are 15 and they are 30, 15 many are already
McNish: I had a similar thing, because when I was at school. Then years
KM: I think most have a similar experience but not many happen the way
Dindo’s did. Usually it’s in the arts, playing music or acting. Racing beats the
crap out of you over the years.
At this point Dindo and Nishy look at one another and smile and then look at
me. Time to change the batter… and ask for more coffee.
McNish: One thing, something that will never happen in Europe and I know it
won’t, was after Salt Lake City last year. Emanuele, Dindo, Frank, Martin and
I had new Harley Davidson’s and we rode along to Portland just cruising over
three days between races and that was such a brilliant trip and it was
relaxing. There was no phones, no internet access, nothing.
Now after the first LMS race in Barcelona there is a short flight straight back
to Nice and then home. We will miss that social element of being in America.
KM: The myth aspect of the American west only you weren’t on horses, you
were on Harley’s. Get your motor runnin’…
McNish: Well we had a few horses with the Harley’s. There is a certain
element from a European perspective coming across the Atlantic……more
than just a business trip, you do have a slightly holiday atmosphere, which
was nice, with a bit of business coming on but there is an element of knowing
you are somewhere else, a big country.
Capello: I think there was a release from coming from Europe. Because
when you are in Europe, you know you are a one hour flight from home and
then you even lose interest because Barcelona for example is a great city but
I never thought to stay there one day longer because you know in one hour
you are home but here it, I think the long distance from home, it makes our,
how do you say?..... our stay…..here a little looser than racing near home.
KM: So is that why you are staying one day longer here in Sebring?
Capello: Allan is, I am going to Miami with Tom.
McNish: Wal-Mart… you know we are had some mega races. It’s difficult
actually to say because there is a list of about 10 or 15 straight away off the
top of your head that were really good ones. I think from a personal point of
view, Sears Point is obviously one that comes up because it was our first
season together in 2000 and we had a bit of a scrappy start for the year and
we should have won in Sebring. We had problems in Charlotte and I threw the
car off in Nurburgring and then we get to Sears and that was the start of the
KM: Any time you can lap the entire field I would say you are doing OK.
McNish: Yes, but at that point in the season we were in a position where we
could only lose, so why not? Then we went on to Mosport………..
KM: Wrong direction, you went upstate in a westerly direction after Sears
McNish: Oh sorry, Portland…….
KM: That was the one where you started first Dindo and had an incident in
the first few minutes with a 911. Then you and Nishy had to fight back and
Capello: Yes, OK and at the time to be honest I was still learning because
for me I was really new at Sebring in 1999 and then the rest of 2000 was my
real season here.
KM: All new material. (Laughs)
Capello: Yes and the new racetracks and I have to say, not because he is
sitting here, but Allan helped me quite a lot because it really sped up my
learning back then.
KM: Well, you’ve learned to hit fewer people over the seasons. But you like to
run over lizards.
Capello: Ha! (laughing)…….this was a completely new way of racing not
only for me but for Emanuele and for Frankie as well. To go from touring cars,
single seaters, it was something……cars much faster, racetracks where we
never raced before, it was difficult for me to understand, when you were
lapping a car that they didn’t give you room but they were fighting like they
were fighting for a position in their own class and that is something that was a
Capello: But to have Allan as a teammate, I think he really sped up my
learning curve and I think 2001 and 2002 I start to show some very good
performances. I had to learn about the speed, I was very fast in one lap but I
was not as consistent as I got one or two years later……..
KM: You were learning patience…..
Capello: Yes, then when I joined Bentley in 2003, I had experience and knew
McNish: Yes, well patience was one thing but in Portland to be in pole
position Dindo actually just proved it because the car was a dog through the
sessions beforehand. He had two laps on the tires before they dropped off too
much and Dindo qualified and stuck on pole by a few tenths or something on
the second lap, which I thought was a pretty impressive thing. We sit down
now and go over the car. There is a sensitivity that I’ve got to the car and that
he’s got and sometimes he’ll bring up a point that I’ve never actually thought
of and then follow down that route and it gained us some pretty good
KM: Unfortunately yesterday’s car was not one of them……..
McNish: (laughing) Well, when it was set up and running it was fine, it was
just when the suspension thing happened.
KM: Do you guys ever get a gut feeling when you get in a car and you just
go…..maybe you haven’t’ even gone, but you say this just isn’t going to work
McNish: I am very much of the opinion that when a car drives out of the
garage, the first time it ever drives, you know whether it’s right or not and if
it’s poor and a pig it will always be a pig and people will always try to
Capello: Talking about that and I don’t know if you agree but the best feeling
to me was in Houston and at Lime Rock, was because in those two races we
were really struggling in practice and qualifying…..the car was okay but we
had no speed and then in the race after two laps we really understood that we
could fight for victory.
KM: It’s interesting that you bring up Houston because it is a mickey mouse
circuit in the middle of a parking lot but I am actually going to miss it and I
am sorry that it was cut……I remember by the third lap in the race, just like
Laguna last year, you two were going to win this race and that’s what I meant
by the gut, where you just go for it.
McNish: I have to be honest, after qualifying I thought we could be clever in
traffic and everything else but when it was there, when I saw Dindo catching
up after the initial speed of the Porsches after I thought maybe we had a
KM: Were you surprised at the speed and how good the Peugeot was on the
bumpy parts of the track? You have your work cut out for the LMS.
Capello: They will be very fast all this year.
McNish: I want to take it to them the best we can.
Kerry Morse, April 2008