Audi R15 TDI - Petit Le Mans Race Report

Britain’s Allan McNish (pictured) came tantalisingly close to achieving his fifth Petit Le Mans race victory at Road Atlanta on Saturday (26 Sep) and maintaining Audi’s 100% winning record in the annual American sportscar endurance race since the German manufacturer’s debut in 2000.

The Dumfries-born double Le Mans 24 Hour race winner and Italian co-driver Dindo Capello led for the opening 4hrs before the Scotsman suffered two spins and dropped to third place on the treacherously wet and slippery track in Georgia - moments before the race went in to a Safety Car period and was ultimately stopped with almost five hours run.

Audi r15 tdi

After a further delay of almost four hours and near constant heavy rain, organisers decided not to re-start the event which in any case was limited to 10 hours or 1,000-miles, leaving the McNish/Capello diesel-engined Audi R15 TDI classified third, a mere 3.465secs behind the winning Peugeot (Franck Montagny/Stephane Sarrazin).

"It was a disappointing way for the race to end, it was the correct decision due to the adverse track conditions but I feel robbed and frustrated,” reflected McNish who set the race’s fastest lap.

“I made a good start in the wet and the car adapted well to the drying conditions. I had been very close to putting the second-placed Peugeot a lap down but a Safety Car period nullified that opportunity for us.

“Dindo then led throughout his stint before I took over again. I was leading but spun down to third on a greasy track after light rain during another Safety Car period when my slick tyres became cold running at slow speed and lost their grip.

“I pitted soon afterwards for wet tyres as the rain intensified but then aquaplaned out of second place and down to third again. The rain was torrential and far too dangerous to continue. My Audi was floating on the track as opposed to driving on it which was all but flooded and the organisers made the correct decision, if not five laps late, as there would have been no cars left on the track in those conditions.”

The McNish/Capello Audi had started from third place on the 27-car grid but McNish swept in to the lead on the opening lap. The “sister” R15 TDI of Lucas Luhr/Marco Werner began from fourth place, a position the German duo were classified in, one lap down on the top-three, when the race was declared over. Meanwhile the McNish/Capello Audi won the efficiency award “Michelin GreenX Challenge” – a trophy awarded to the most environmentally friendly car.

Audi unexpectedly contested a third race of the year to collect further race information about its new sports-prototype in preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours next June.

Allan concluded: “Despite the race being cut short, we’ve learned a lot and gathered valuable race data which we will be very helpful for next year - and that was our ultimate aim for coming here.”

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