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The Return of The Big Mac

Allan McNish returned to the sports car fold and spent the last few days getting
reacquainted with the mount that brought him a championship. Audi UK Team
Veloqx brought their two Audi R8  prototypes over for testing at Road Atlanta with
the main focus of winning Sebring next month. The driving line up is considered by
many to be the class of the upcoming ALMS season. It should be what with
Johnny Herbert, Frank Biela and the backbone of Bentley effort in Guy Smith.
However, it has been the recent signing of McNish that has generated the most
interest. Fans of the ALMS will recall the stirring drives put on by the Scotsman in
the Joest prepared Audi during the 2000 season. McNish didnít exactly disappear
from the scene having logged the past three seasons involved in the F1 circus
with the inaugural effort with Toyota and then pounding the circuits aboard the
Renault as their test driver. The drama of whether of not that McNish would remain
in F1 came down to the wire. He didnít and here is what he had to say about it.

On Formula One
I have been fortunate and lucky to have had the opportunity to drive some great
cars during my times in F1. While F1 is important, I want the chance to run at the
front and not the back just to say that I am still an F1 driver. I feel I showed that I
was consistent in my times with the Renault to my teammates when the set ups
were comparable. It got to the point with the recent negotiations that I knew I
needed to move on and think of my future.

On getting back in the Audi R8
There are noticeable developments in the car since I last drove one. I have had to
work up gently to speed. The car is smoother, progressive and has more torque.
This has been the first chance I have had with the direct injection and even with
the air restrictors, it makes a noticeable difference. What I did find getting back in
the Audi was that because of the regulations aimed at slowing the car down, it is
closer to how it was moving from the Audi to the Toyota than say, the Renault. The
technology in F1 is more critical to the development of the car. The Audi has not
needed that much to keep it competitive in comparison. A lot of the characteristics
are similar to the older car so I feel comfortable that it will come back quickly. Try
this, here and there. The Audi is so balanced that soon enough I can just get down
to the driving.

Slicks vs. Treads
I have not had to right foot brake in three years or had to shift up. In a lot of ways
getting back in the Audi has been a retraining. My first laps out I was hitting the
brake pedal too hard, the change of slicks from the treaded tires of F1 meant
finding the areas of turning in, because you can slide the car the steering angles
are not as critical. Going back to slicks also means finding the true limit of the tires
as well as braking. The reality is to be fully up to speed by Sebring.

Being Back in Sportscars
I am pleased with the chance to compete again in a top car with a good team. This
isnít a situation of taking what I could, I am sincere in saying that I feel sportscars
are going to gain ground this season and really be a main story in 2005. Not every
manufacturer is willing to spend the 300 million to consider F1 and just on this
alone is one reason that sportscars will grow again.

Kerry Morse
February 2004

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Allan McNish in the Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx Audi R8
Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx drivers (from left): Guy Smith, Jamie Davies, Johnny Herbert, Frank Biela, Allan McNish, Pierre Kaffer  Road Atlanta