His Audi R15 TDi may have a '100 per cent win record' in its fledgling career to-date, but Allan McNish insists that he is taking absolutely nothing for granted approaching the 2009 edition of the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend - an event in which the Scot will be bidding to defend his laurels after recording one of the most popular victories last year in recent memory.

Having first entered the legendary round-the-clock French classic - frequently referred to as the toughest race in the world to win - back in 1997, McNish defied convention to triumph in only his second appearance a year later, partnering home-grown favourites Laurent A?ello and St?phane Ortelli in the Porsche factory effort behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT1-98.

Following a subsequent outing for Toyota, since then the 39-year-old has competed exclusively for Audi, and after several agonising near-misses, he finally regained the top step of the rostrum this time twelve months ago, helping to successfully see off Peugeot's challenge to uphold the Ingolstadt manufacturer's unbeaten run stretching back more than five years.

The German marque maintained the upper hand over its French rival when the two leading protagonists met again for the first time in 2009 in the Sebring 12 Hours in March, but if it was ultimately another success for Audi, McNish and long-time team-mates Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo 'Dindo' Capello were made to work hard for it - and the Dumfries native confessed that he had been somewhat taken aback by Peugeot's turn of speed under the Florida sun...

"It's got a 100 per cent win record so far!" he pointed out of the R15's form to-date, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio. "The R10 TDi was quite groundbreaking because it was the first-ever purpose-built diesel, so I think it pushed a lot of the boundaries. The R15 does exactly the same in typical Audi fashion, but it's been able to combine the V10 engine - which is shorter and lighter than the V12 - with new aerodynamics and packaging and better driveability to make what I would say is a much more raceable car. You can throw this thing around and you can really give it everything you've got and it responds very well.

"When we turned up at Sebring, it was the first time that we had really run the car in hot conditions; every test we'd had in Europe had either been very cold or very wet, which hadn't been ideal preparations, but we've got a lot of simulations and we kind of know where we should be before we get anywhere anyway, so it wasn't a case when we arrived there that we were completely out of the ballpark and had to re-learn the world. We knew within a few per cent where we needed to go.

"I was confident that we could have the performance in terms of lap time, and I was a bit disappointed to be honest that the Peugeot was a bit quicker than us in the race. The area that I had question marks over - and I think we all did - was the reliability, because it was such a brand new car, and when you get to a race like Sebring, you always find problems that you don't encounter in testing because there's rubber build-up and things like that. You just get into situations, like wheel-to-wheel touches with other cars, that you don't get in testing. There was a pleasant satisfaction, I think, for the engineering group that we got to the end of the race with two cars that were intact and ran without any real dramas.

"Peugeot came out with a very clear statement that they were going there to test, so I asked two of their drivers and they looked at me as though I was completely insane! They went there to win the race, and their faces on the podium and the disappointment of finishing second proved that it wasn't for them a test session. From that point-of-view, the battle continued as it was from last year, and it was a very, very good battle fought by two very strong competitors with one goal in mind - to win. That goal is exactly the same for both of us at Le Mans."

Indeed, former McLaren Formula 1 team principal Ron Dennis once famously quipped that second place is just 'the first of the losers', and with a great deal of pride and prestige at stake, neither Peugeot nor Audi will be content with anything but victory at La Sarthe this weekend.

Widely acknowledged as the cruellest of mistresses, Le Mans can chew you up and spit you out without the slightest prior indication or backwards glance, but McNish is confident that if anyone is capable of adapting to and dodging the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that the race is prone to deliver, then in its Audi.

"Obviously since Le Mans we've done a lot of performance testing," revealed the former Toyota F1 star, "to try to get the right balance with the aero set-ups and everything else, but we've also done endurance testing, which for us is a complete replica of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the drivers, the car and the team. They're never without niggles, but we've gone through that and I just need to point you back to Audi's record in the past; that record of reliability gives me a security in my mind that we shouldn't encounter too many things, and if we do then we've got the capability and adaptability to fight them.

"The development between Sebring and Le Mans was the standard type of development that we would normally have with a new car; we did it with the R8 and with the R10, so therefore it's just an extension of that and also an adaptation to the Le Mans track and what it's like in comparison to Sebring. That's the same for Peugeot, though, and for any of the teams that are going from Sebring to Le Mans.

"Certainly at Sebring we could see that the R15's raceability was very, very good, so hopefully we can keep that going towards Le Mans. Audi are very clear in the way they do things; they work extremely hard on very good engineering, and the reliability is an important factor - it's been one of the strengths I would say in the R8 and the R10, to be able to get to the end of big endurance races with minimal hassle...but I think with the R15 we've got some true performance as well.

"However, the one thing about Le Mans is that you never know what's going to hit you; it could be a puncture, it could be the weather, it could be this, that or the other, but something at some point is going to bite you and you've got to be able to react to it. I think everybody is just looking forward to getting on with it. Though it seems like yesterday, in reality Sebring was a few months ago, so we're quite keen now to see how the opposition are going. We haven't seen Peugeot since Sebring - only on television! - and we haven't seen Aston Martin at all, again except on TV, and the same with Oreca, so I think now is the moment of truth..."

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE