- “Flying Scotsman” aims for a fourth Sebring 12 Hour race win
Allan McNish bids to get his FIA World Endurance Championship aspirations off to a flying start in Florida on Saturday (17 Mar).
The Scotsman competes in the Sebring 12 Hours sharing his diesel-powered “works” Audi R18 TDI with Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Dindo Capello (Italy).
McNish, a winner of the Sebring race on three previous occasions, will contest the entire eight-race WEC with the Dumfries-born ace focussed on winning the world “crown”.
“My aim this year is to win the Driver’s World [Endurance] Championship and help Audi claim the Manufacturer’s title,” confessed McNish.
“I contested the 2002 FIA World Formula One Championship but the only World title I’ve ever previously been in real contention for was the 1985 Junior World Karting title when I ultimately finished third – one place behind Michael Schumacher.
“I’ve won the Le Mans 24 Hours twice and the American Le Mans Series title three times but to win the World title would be the icing on the cake in my 30-year motor racing career.”
Audi Sport enters three 2011-specification R18 TDI sports-prototypes in North America’s oldest sportscar race with McNish switching to a hybrid-diesel Audi R18 e-tron quattro for the next WEC races at Spa in Belgium (May 5) and the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.
Allan added: “It will be the first time we have racedthe R18 TDI at Sebring which is a little bizarre as we’ve been racing it since last May.
“The track, climate and intensity of the race are all very good tests for the car, team and a driver. Audi Sport has used it [Sebring] each year, bar one, since its début in endurance sportscar racing  as an important part of our preparation for Le Mans and not just for car reliability, speed and performance.
“It’s used for the way that we work as a team – drivers, engineers and mechanics. A big ‘heavy’ race at the very beginning of the year gets you into the system and an early feel for everything.”
The bumpy, fast 3.7-mile, 17-corner Florida track is not only a stern test for man and machine but features a unique atmosphere attracting a huge crowd.
“I have always enjoyed racing against this ‘circuit’ as well as the fierce competition,” continued McNish. “I raced in the 12 hours at Sebring for the first time in 2000 and this year’s race marks my ninth and is always fast, aggressive and intense often run in hot and humid weather conditions.
“Normally there are over 150,000 fans gathered around the track over the four days of the event. Many camp out for the entire event with some having been at the circuit to get the best available vantage point in their motorhomes and camper vans since the turn of the New Year.
“Additionally there is the incredible history surrounding this race first run in 1952. Derek Bell, Juan Fangio, Mike Hawthorn, Jacky Ickx and Stirling Moss are previous winners with Audi chasing Ferrari and Porsche in terms of overall wins.
“This year’s race has an extra special incentive for Audi and me as a driver as it’s the opening round of the new FIA World Endurance Sportscar Championship.
“Audi Sport and its drivers have wanted a World Championship to aim at for a long time. It will be a cracking start to the season.
“As an Audi Sport driver, I go to every race with a very good chance of success – Audi and I don’t head to races to finish second. Unfortunately one of our biggest rivals, Peugeot, has pulled out of sportscar racing but Toyota has now joined in.
“I drove for the Japanese manufacturer in Formula One and so know only too well that one of the biggest car companies in the world has now joined us in the WEC. They [Toyota] will not be at Sebring because it is too early in their programme but there will be at least two HPD [Honda] cars in the field.
“And those suggesting that Audi is set to run away with Sebring now that Peugeot has gone should remember that an HPD finished second first time out in last year’s corresponding Sebring race – half a minute behind the winner – with minimal testing which was a stunning performance.
“I am very cautious about making predictions. Knowing this race and taking into account the speed we have had in previous races at Sebring and not won combined with the speed of our competition – it’s going to be tough this year especially as we will be penalised with a 15kg weight penalty due to us running our R18 TDI in 2011 spec.”
McNish raced regularly in the American Le Mans Series in 2000, ’06 & ’07, winning the driver’s title on each occasion, and the Scot has fond memories of the North American-based series.
Allan added: “I always thoroughly enjoy racing in America but unfortunately Sebring is the only U.S. race on the WEC calendar. I’ve won three American Le Mans Series titles and have had a lot of fun and enjoyment Stateside.
“The American market is massive for Audi. We’ve been racing diesel sportscars there since 2006 – three years before Audi of America started importing diesel engined road cars. North America is now the third biggest market in the world for Audi. It’s a big player and I think it’s got real significance for both me as a driver, Audi Sport and also for Audi as a car company in what we’ve done to ‘showcase’ TDI technology on racetracks over there”.
Practice is staged on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with qualifying for the anticipated 60-car plus entry on Friday (8.10pm UK time). The 60th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fuelled by Fresh From Florida race begins at 2.30pm UK time on Saturday.
Audi Sebring 12 Hours Formguide (Début: 1999 – 9 wins from 12 races)
1999: 3rd (Alboreto/Capello/Johansson). Also 5th (Biela/McCarthy/Pirro) Audi R8R.
2000: 1st (Biela/Kristensen/Pirro). Also 2nd (Capello/McNish/Alboreto) Audi R8.
2001: 1st (Capello/Alboreto/Aiello). Also 2nd (Biela/Pirro/Kristensen), 3rd (Wallace/Shroeder/Kelleners) & 4th (Johansson/Smith) Audi R8.
2002: 1st (Capello/Pescatori/Herbert). Also 2nd (Wallace/Johansson/Lammers) & 5th (Biela/Pirro/Kristensen) Audi R8.
2003: 1st (Biela/Werner/Peter). Also 2nd (Pirro/Lehto/Johansson) & 6th (Salo/McCarthy/Kane) Audi R8.
2004*: 1st (McNish/Biela/Kaffer). Also 2nd (Pirro/Lehto/Werner) & 3rd (Davies/Herbert/Smith) Audi R8.
2005*: 1st (Kristensen/Lehto/Werner). Also 2nd (Biela/Pirro/McNish) Audi R8.
2006: 1st (McNish/Capello/Kristensen). Audi R10 TDI.
2007: 1st (Biela/Pirro/Werner). 4th (2nd LM P1) (McNish/Capello/Kristensen) Audi R10 TDI.
2008: 3rd (1st LMP1) (McNish/Capello/Kristensen). Also 6th (2nd LMP1) (Luhr/Rockenfeller/Werner) Audi R10 TDI.
2009: 1st (McNish/Capello/Kristensen). Also 3rd (Luhr/Rockenfeller/Werner) Audi R15 TDI.
2010: Did not enter
2011: 4th (McNish/Capello/Kristensen) Audi R15 TDI. Also 5th (Bernhard/Dumas/Rockenfeller).
Allan McNish Sebring 12 Hours Formguide (Début: 2000 – Six podiums including 3 wins from 8 races all with Audi). Allan has only raced sportscars at Sebring.
2000: 2nd – 39.111 seconds behind winning Audi (Qualified 2nd).
Puncture at one-quarter distance lost time due to bodywork damage, Capello spun off damp track while brake issues delayed pace in closing stages which marked McNish’s maiden race for Audi.
2004*: 1st (Qualified 2nd, AM).
Trouble-free run from start-to-finish, led final six hours uninterrupted finishing 5-laps clear. First race for McNish after returning to Audi from his three year spell in Formula One.
2005*: 2nd – 6.365 seconds behind winning Audi (Qualified 2nd).
Traded lead with eventual winner throughout.
2006: 1st + Fastest Lap, AM (Qualified 1st, AM).
Started race from pit-lane after heat exchanger problem but McNish went on to score debut win for Audi R10 TDI by four laps.
2007: 4th (Qualified 2nd).
Led majority of opening 5hrs until an electrical issue caused two pit stops costing 30mins. Dropped to seventh but finished fourth, second in LMP1.
2008: 3rd (Qualified 1st, AM).
Traded lead with “sister” Audi but lost one lap when a front suspension component was changed after 7hrs and then a further two laps an hour later when the front brake discs were changed.
2009: 1st (Qualified 2nd).
Debut win for R15 TDI.
2010: Did not Enter.
2011: 4th (Qualified 4th).
Led several times until Capello was “punted” off the track at one-third distance resulting in a seven-lap pit-stop for repairs.
* Denotes Audi “customer” team
* Editorial Copyright Free photos from Sebring will be available to download from the Audi UK Press website (generic log-in details guest/R8LMS):