27 September 2009
McNish frustrated by red flag timing
Allan McNish came tantalisingly close to achieving a fifth Petit Le Mans victory, only to be caught out by incessant rain that eventually forced the event to be red-flagged with the Audi in third place.
Along with co-driver 'Dindo' Capello, the double Le Mans 24 Hour race winner led the opening four hours before suffering two spins and dropping behind the Peugeots on a treacherously wet and slippery track. Moments later, the race went to safety car mode and was ultimately stopped with almost five hours run.
After a further delay of almost four hours amid near constant downpour, organisers decided not to restart the event, which had been scheduled to run to ten hours or 1000 miles, leaving the diesel-engined R15 TDI in third, a mere 3.465secs behind the winning Peugeot of Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin, and ending Audi's 100 per cent record in the race since debuting in 2000.
"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,” McNish reflected, having set the event'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, because it was all but flooded. The organisers made the correct decision, if maybe 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, before McNish swept in to the lead on the opening lap. The sister R15 of Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner began from fourth place, a position the German duo were eventually classified in at the end, one lap down on the top three.
“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," McNish said, referring to Audi's decision to contest only its third race of the year in order to collect further information about its latest prototype in preparation for Le Mans, "That was our ultimate aim for coming here.”
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