Allan McNish has predicted that the upcoming Sebring 12 Hours will be a 'titanic' battle between Audi, Peugeot and Acura for outright glory – adding that anybody who claims to be using it as merely a test session for Le Mans is lying.
McNish is a former double winner of the Florida endurance classic – in 2004 and 2006 – and he refers to it as the second greatest sportscar race in the world, behind only the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours, an event in which he has also twice ascended the top step of the rostrum.
Though Audi failed to prevail at Sebring last year for the first time since all the way back in 1999, the Ingolstadt manufacturer did make amends when it counted most, at La Sarthe in June, making it an incredible eight wins from the last nine years.
What's more, the German marque had to see off a stern challenge from Peugeot with the visibly faster 908 HDi in order to do so, and having had to wait so long for his second success in mid-France, McNish admits, only served to make that victory champagne taste all-the-sweeter.
“It was far too long coming!” the 39-year-old joked, in an exclusive interview with Crash.net Radio
. “Every year from 1998 that I've raced there – because I didn't do it for three or four seasons – I've led and we've always had a car and team capable of doing it, but it's gone away through various things.
“That I think just proves how hard Le Mans is; it is a full year's racing in a day, in one particular 24-hour event. From that point-of-view, to have stood up on the top step so early was probably a false sense of security in some respects, but 2008 really was the sweetest victory I would say of my career to-date.
“I think overall 2008 for us was a very, very good season. At the beginning we realised that the Peugeot was quicker than us, and also in America the Porsche and the Acura were very strong. We had a bad Sebring 12 Hours – really bad in reality – because even though we won the category we finished third overall, which was not what we wanted to do.
“The team fought very well, though, and brought a lot of developments, so by the time we got to Le Mans although we were still not quick enough, we were able to so everything – pit-stops and strategy and everything else – at 100 per cent, and we managed to bring away the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Petit Le Mans, the Le Mans Series and the American Le Mans Series.
“From Audi's perspective it was a total clean sweep across the board, and personally for it to be crowned off with the British Competition Driver at the Autosport Awards
was a very nice recognition if you think of all the other Brits out there, especially this year. It was a very sweet December.”