ALMS » 30 October 2000
Second enough as roulette gives McNish the crown.
Scotland's Allan McNish followed ex-pat Briton Elliot Forbes-Robinson into the ALMS history books by winning the coveted drivers crown at Las Vegas.
With remarkable symmetry to Robinson's 1999 triumph, McNish clinched the title in the middle of the Nevada desert without actually winning the race, and was helped by the demise of the lead Panoz in an unfortunate mid-race accident. This time, the American car was not actually involved in the title fight, but looked set to play an important role in determining whether McNish would clinch the crown on US soil - or have to travel to David Brabham's homeland to do the deed.
The Australian's team-mate, Jan Magnussen, put the cat among the pigeons right from the off, rocketing past both front row Audis to take the lead heading into turn one. Frank Biela, surprised by the Dane's bold move, then clashed with JJ Lehto's BMW and dropped away from the head of the field, leaving McNish to take the fight to Panoz alone.
For the first twelve laps, the Scot kept up the pressure on his Danish rival, the two cars only separated when catching slower traffic. Then, on lap 13, he made his move, diving down low into T1 and passing the Panoz cleanly. Magnussen, caught unawares promptly missed his braking point and, as McNish rose from the inside to take the optimum line, clattered into the back of the Audi.
Both cars spun, but were able to keep going at the head of the field. The Panoz looked relatively undamaged, but McNish's car was clearly sporting a re-arranged diffuser, and it took the Scot a while to find the right technique to combat the new handling characteristics of the R8.
His task was eased when Magnussen was assessed a stop-go penalty for his part in the accident, dropping the red roadster to sixth, but prompting a fightback from a very fired-up Dane.
With Randy Pobst's GT Porsche shedding its rear bumper out on the track, the ensuing full course yellow allowed Magnussen to save some time in his pursuit, but the Dane still had to fight back past the Rafanelli Lola, both BMWs and Biela's R8R, which was now back into third place.
Remarkably, Magnussen stuck to his guns and, by lap 40, was right back on McNish's tail. Wasting no time, the Panoz sliced past its silver rival next time around, before quickly pitting to try and take advantage of the small gap between the cars. Taking on just a new load of fuel, the Dane was able to rejoin - under green flag conditions - without having lost a lap, and putting the pressure back on to Audi to perform a similarly quick turn-around when McNish stopped.
When the Scot eventually stopped, some six laps later, the crew did its bit, before McNish stalled the car trying to get away. Sceptics in the crowd immediately pointed to a clutch problem that could thwart the Scot's chance, but he would later admit that the engine was just dying under acceleration - and had been all weekend.
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