MCNISH SCORES DOMINANT DÉBUT VICTORY FOR LATEST DIESEL AUDI
Allan McNish scored a magnificent début victory for Audi with its latest diesel-engined sportscar in the opening round of the Le Mans Series at Paul Ricard in France today (Sunday 11 Apr).
McNish started his new Audi R15 TDI “Plus” from the front row of the 40-car grid after co-driver Dindo Capello had set the second fastest qualifying time the previous day but stormed in to the lead on the third lap.
By mid-distance in the eight-hour race the 40-year-old Scotsman, back behind the wheel after a solid stint by Capello, had extended the lead to a two-lap advantage over the second-placed Aston Martin around the fast, sweeping 3.6-mile track.
Having taken the lead after four minutes, the McNish/Capello “factory” Audi was never headed again at the former French Grand Prix circuit– their 5.5-litre twin-turbo diesel engined Audi eventually finishing five-laps, 18-miles ahead of the second-placed Aston Martin having completed 957-miles at an average speed of 119.49mph in a completely trouble-free run.
Capello set the race’s fastest lap (1m 42.541s, 126.33mph) with 90mins remaining. The pole-position starting factory-assisted Oreca Peugeot lost 18mins in the pits with a problem in the opening hour and finished fourth – eight-laps behind the victorious Audi.
“It’s fantastic to give the new R15 ‘Plus’ its first victory in its first race which follows the Audi tradition of début race wins like we achieved with the R8, R10 TDI and R15 TDI – even if this one is a little unexpected – and not many manufacturers can claim this honour,” commented an elated McNish.
“It’s been a perfect race because we got the victory and also it was a perfect test for the engineers going towards Le Mans.”
Just 37 days after the “roll-out” of the R15 “Plus”, the Paul Ricard race at Le Castellet was a “test” under race conditions marking the next phase of its development programme. After aerodynamic tests at Homestead (Florida), a multi-day endurance test at Sebring (Florida) and tyre tests at Monza (Italy), Audi Sport Team Joest used the Ricard LMS race to begin the detailed race-setup work on the updated LMP1 sports-prototype.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “It is impressive that Audi Sport has developed a prototype for a fourth consecutive time which was able to win its début race: after the R8, the R10 and the R15 now the R15 plus. Of course we are very happy that the R15 plus has won the Le Castellet 8 Hours in its test entry.
“But even more important is the fact that the car is already very fast and reliable. We did not have the slightest technical problem here and without the rain shower in the end we would have completed the whole distance without any unscheduled pit-stop. This success is a small milestone on the way to Le Mans and a first reward for the hard work of the previous weeks and months. But we know very well that there is still plenty of work to do until Le Mans.”
Dumfries-born McNish and the Audi team continue its Le Mans 24 Hour race (12-13 Jun) preparations with a full three-car “dress rehearsal” in a 1,000km race at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), the second round of the LMS on 9 May.
Tom Kristensen partners McNish and Capello at Le Mans. The Dane tore the heel tendon in his left leg in January and decided to concentrate on his forthcoming testing commitments rather than contest the Ricard race.