In the wake of Audi's reduction in its racing activities in 2009, Allan McNish has admitted that he is likely to be 'getting a good suntan' this year – but he would rather do that, he argues, than switch disciplines to compete in the DTM.
The Scot raced for the Ingolstadt manufacturer in the leading pan-European touring car series back in 2005, but he would finish just tenth in the drivers' title chase and fourth of the Audi brigade, with no podiums, a best finish of fourth place and seven occasions out of the eleven races in which he failed even to make the top ten on the starting grid as he struggled to translate his evident sportscar skills across to tin-tops.
That dearth of results was in marked contrast to McNish's prototype prowess, with two triumphs in the iconic, round-the-clock Le Mans 24 Hours, victory in the Sebring 12 Hours in 2006 and a brace of titles in the American Le Mans Series alongside Rinaldo 'Dindo' Capello in 2006 and 2007. That being the case, a return to the DTM to fill the free time he is likely to have on his hands over the coming months, is not, he insists, something that remotely interests him.
“No, plain and simply not,” the 39-year-old told Crash.net Radio
, when asked about the possibility. “Basically, I spoke to Dr Ullrich (Audi Motorsport Director) about what we do in this short period, and unless you're in with one of the top three or four cars – as in one of the new cars – then you haven't got a chance of winning in the DTM, and I don't race to finish second or make up the grids.
“It's like if the DTM was reduced I wouldn't expect [Mattias] Ekström to come across and take my place, and he wouldn't get the chance to do that. They (Audi) would prefer that I concentrate very much on the sportscar side and lead that programme forward. At the end of it we've still got the two biggest races out there to go out and try to win – and that takes a lot of effort.”
Indeed, those two 'biggest races' – Sebring in March, which will witness the competitive debut of Audi's new R15, and Le Mans three months later – are McNish's prime focus in 2009, and having finally added to his tally in the latter last year, a full decade on from his first success in the arduous event, he is confident that the 'less is more' approach being taken is entirely the right way to go if the marque's dominant run of late is to be extended.
“I'm going to be getting a good suntan, I think!” the former Toyota Formula 1 star joked of his lack of track time this season. “Like everybody else, obviously Audi as a car company is very aware of the market conditions, and they've had to scale back their racing programmes accordingly.
“We've got a new car, though, we're racing the two biggest races in sportscars – the Sebring 12 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours – and they're also still involved in the DTM. They've reduced the programmes, however they haven't cancelled.
“Formula 1 has been hit by Honda already, and there's the possibility of other things across the board, so I think they've taken a very good view on it and looking towards the future it's still very strong; it's just that this year is going to be a little bit thinner than maybe it was in 2008.”TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE