Le Mans 24 Hours - Race Preview (14-15 June)
Allan McNish bids to become the first Briton to drive a diesel engined sportscar to victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours next weekend (14-15 June) – a race the Scotsman believes will be a "Battle of the Titans".
The 38-year-old Scotsman competes in a "factory" entered Audi R10 TDI for a third consecutive year aiming to record the German manufacturer's eighth Le Mans victory since their debut in 1999 – 10 years after McNish scored his previous win in the French classic.
The 76th Le Mans 24 Hours features 55-cars battling for honours around the 8.47-mile circuit comprising of closed public roads with McNish predicting a twice-around-the-clock duel from start-to-finish between Audi and Peugeot.
"Peugeot will be our main competition and I believe it's going to be a fierce, had-to-head battle from green light to chequered flag," confirmed McNish.
"It's likely to a ferocious encounter, three cars apiece from the Audi and Peugeot ‘factory' teams, a confrontation the likes of which in my opinion not witnessed at Le Mans for 10 years. Audi has a fast, economical, consistent and reliable car we know works in all weather conditions. The team can always be relied upon for a canny race strategy and a group of mechanics who I believe are the very best.
"Le Mans is such a special, unique race, and once you've tasted victory there only an outright win can bring complete satisfaction. Since my victory in 1998, I've stood on the podium a further three times which itself is a real achievement, twice for finishing third over the past two years, but it's that very top step I want to stand on again."
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).
Allan added: "Dindo, Tom and I return to Le Mans this year with unfinished business. Our car dominated the race for almost 17 hours until a wheel nut problem caused Dindo to crash when we were over three laps ahead of the field.
"The three of us have a lot of adrenalin, a lot of emotion and a lot of focus and we're determined to finish the job that we started so well last year."
Audi has won the annual Le Mans race for the past two year's with its turbocharged diesel-engined R10 TDI. Last year's winning Audi spent less than 24minutes stationary during its 36 pit-stops, completing a record distance of 3,125 miles and at an average speed of 129.96mph. The amount of full-throttle per lap is 75% each lap while the Audi R10 TDI exceeds 200mph at four points around the circuit.
A so-called "full service" including refuelling, tyres and driver change takes around 40 seconds. If a tyre change is left out around 15 seconds are saved. The Audi R10 TDI manages twelve laps on average with a full tank of fuel. This means that the driver must return to the pits for refuelling almost every 45 minutes.
Allan continued: "Le Mans nowadays is a 24 hour sprint and is effectively a 17-race Formula One Grand Prix season undertaken with the same car and engine and completed at around the same average speed over a similar distance."
2006 & ‘07 Le Mans winners Frank Biela (D), Emanuele Pirro (I) and Marco Werner (D) pilot the number 1 Audi with a third R10 TDI handled by Mike Rockenfeller (D), Lucas Luhr (D), and Alexandre Premat (F) as in 2007.
The three Audi R10 TDI prototypes will race for the first time with the next generation of Biofuel. Biomass to Liquids (BTL) has now been blended into the Shell V-Power Diesel race fuel that Audi has used to win the annual French endurance race for the past two years (2006 & '07). This year's race marks the first time a second-generation biofuel has been used in the Le Mans race. Shell V-Power Diesel also includes synthetic GTL (Gas to Liquids) Fuel made by Shell from natural gas, which provides very clean and efficient combustion.