Le Mans 24 Hours - Final Qualifying Report (12 June)
Allan McNish leads Audi into a battle for the 76th Le Mans 24 Hours tomorrow (SAT, 2pm BST) adamant that the German car manufacturer can achieve an eighth win in the annual endurance race.
McNish remains convinced that despite the three diesel-engined Audi R10 TDI sportscars, which line-up in fourth, fifth and seventh places on the 55-car grid, being eclipsed by Peugeot in qualifying, the Scotsman and his fellow Audi team-mates can look forward optimistically to a successful race.
"We knew that Peugeot were our main competition and that in qualifying especially, they have a faster car than us," confirmed Dumfries-born McNish.
"But in the four previous races we've had with them already this season, Audi has shown that it can run much closer to its qualifying pace than Peugeot are able to in race trim.
"Additionally, Audi's pit-stops are normally a little quicker while we're also hopeful that our fuel economy will be better. All of these elements will combine to make it a very close encounter – it's going to be an absolute titanic battle from green light to chequered flag.
"Furthermore, if we [Audi] can keep them [Peugeot] under constant pressure, in previous races they have shown themselves to be susceptible to making mistakes. I'm going to be niggling away at their heels throughout."
McNish set the fourth fastest time in Wednesday's opening qualifying session and shaved three-tenth's of a second off that time last night (THURS) – on full tanks – but remained fourth quickest while the Peugeot of Stephane Sarrazin (France) starts from pole-position.
Allan added: "Tonight's session was very positive. Like the previous evening, we didn't look at it as pure qualifying so spent time further improving the balance and consistency which allowed us to set similar fast times like the Peugeots.
"Tom, Dindo and I are all very comfortable in the car – whether it be on full or near empty tanks, used or fresh tyres – we're extremely happy. This allows us to be confident to attack immediately from the green light."
The Monaco-based Scotsman's co-drivers are the same as the past two years with regular Le Mans Series co-pilot Dindo Capello (I) joined by Tom Kristensen (Den). All three drivers made final adjustments to their Audi in last night's sessions.
The Audi of Mike Rockenfeller (D), Lucas Luhr (D), and Alexandre Premat (F) starts from fifth place on the grid – again courtesy of Wednesday night – while the R10 TDI of 2006 & ‘07 Le Mans winners Frank Biela (D), Emanuele Pirro (I) and Marco Werner (D) starts seventh having been bumped one place down during last night's (THURS) final time trials despite improving its time courtesy of Werner. Audi experienced no problems over the two nights of qualifying – new engines being fitted for last night's sessions.
Audi made its Le Mans race debut in 1999 (finishing 3rd & 4th) and has since won on seven occasions (2000-2, 2004 & 2005) with the petrol-engined Audi R8 and in 2006 & ‘07 with the diesel-engined Audi R10 TDI.
Qualifying (overall): 1 Pedro Lamy (Por)/Stephane Sarrazin (F)/Alexander Wurz (A). Peugeot 908. 3m 18.513s 2 Franck Montagny (F)/Ricardo Zonta (BRA)/Christian Klien (A). Peugeot 908. 3m 18.682s 3 Marc Gene (ESP)/Nicolas Minassian (F)/Jacques Villeneuve (CAN). Peugeot 908. 3m 20.451s 4 Dindo Capello (ITA)/Tom Kristensen (Den)/Allan McNish (GB). Audi R10 TDI. 3m 23.847s 5 Lucas Luhr (D)/Alexandre Premat (F)/Mike Rockenfeller (D). Audi R10 TDI. 3m 24.287s 6 Stefan Mucke (D)/Tomas Enge(Cz)/Jan Charouz (Cz). Lola Aston Martin. 3m 25.158s 7 Frank Biela (D)/Emanuele Pirro (ITA)/Marco Werner (D). Audi R10 TDI. 3m 25.289s 8 Daisuke Ito (J)/Yugi Tachikawa (J)/Tatsuya Kataoka (J). Dome-Judd. 3m 26.928s 9 Emmanuel Collard (F)/Jean-Christophe Boullion (F)/Romain Dumas (F). Pescarolo-Judd. 3m 28.533s 10 Soheil Ayari (F)/Loic Duval (F)/Laurent Groppi (F). Courage-Oreca-Judd. 3m 30.490s