Audi has maintained its unbeaten record in the Petit Le Mans after a dramatic win for the #1 R10 of Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro at Road Atlanta.
The trio bounced back from an accident for McNish on a reconnaissance lap prior to the start to take victory by less than five seconds from the lone Peugeot 908 HDi, while the sister Audi completed the podium in third.
McNish had left the team with work to do after spinning off into the wall with little more than an hour left until the start of the race and while the team managed to repair the damaged R10, the Scot was forced to start two laps down.
Consistently fast lap times, a good strategy and perfect pit-stops allowed the #1 Audi R10 TDI to come back onto the lead-lap but a tyre problem and coolers covered by tyre pick-up, however, later cost another lap.
Using the total of eleven caution periods in the best possible way, the team was again able to recover the lost lap. Finally it was decisive that Allan McNish changed the tyres once more at the last refuelling stop. On the fresher tyres he was first able to pass his team-mate Marco Werner and then, on lap 364 of 394, he was able to outbrake the leading Peugeot. The Peugeot tried to fight back but McNish kept the lead to secure victory.
“I lost control of the Audi due to cold tyres – it was my error,” reflected McNish. “The team did a magnificent job to get it repaired in just 45mins and get me out just three minutes after the start of the race – I'd thought I was out of the race even before it had started!
“This victory is very special. Brilliant strategy throughout the race got us back in to contention. I'm very proud of the drives of Emanuele and Dindo but the entire team as well – without their efforts we would not have even started.”
The sister car of Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner – who had already wrapped up the LMP1 title – took the flag in third, and Werner admitted he had no chance in the closing stages of the race on old rubber.
“Of course it's a bit disappointing for me and Lucas,” he said. “We did a good job during the race and have been in the lead for a long time. The caution periods do not always help you. In the end I was on used tyres while Allan and Peugeot had new tyres. I could do nothing against them. But it's great that Audi has won the race. It was a top job from the whole team."
Audi motorsport Wolfgang Ullrich admitted he was thrilled with the victory as his team once again got the edge on rivals Peugeot.
"This year, we have won the Le Mans 24 Hours, the American Le Mans Series, the Le Mans Series and now also 'Petit Le Mans' with the Audi R10 TDI,” he said. “You can hardly demonstrate 'Vorsprung durch Technik' in a more impressive way. Yet again we showed how good Audi TDI Power is. Peugeot was strong, but we were even stronger. If you start with a two-lap deficit and still win, this is no coincidence. The whole squad did a great job after the accident in the morning. We are proud that we were able to continue our 'Petit Le Mans' winning streak."