Allan McNish admitted to having been taken somewhat by 'surprise' by the sheer pace of the Peugeot quartet during the opening qualifying session for this weekend's 78th edition of the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours round-the-clock classic – but he insisted Audi is 'a bit quicker than what we showed'.
McNish and team-mates Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo 'Dindo' Capello wound up just seventh-quickest on Wednesday evening around the legendary 13.6km La Sarthe circuit in France, but the trio were almost a full five seconds adrift of the provisional pole-setting Peugeot of Stéphane Sarrazin, Nicolas Minassian and Franck Montagny – 4.2 seconds more than the gap in 2009, although the deficit was actually greater still in 2008, when the Ingolstadt manufacturer outfoxed and outlasted its French rival to win the race.
This time, however, the Audi 'dream team' were the slowest of the three Audi R15 Plus TDis in attendance, and even if two-time Le Mans winner McNish pointed to traffic caused by a larger-than-usual number of rookies in 2010 as having been an issue, the Scot conceded that Peugeot had pulled something pretty special out of the bag on home turf with its 908 HDi FAPs.
“The traffic is pretty bad for some reason at the moment – there may be a lot of new drivers or something,” the 40-year-old defending race-winner told Crash.net
, “and unfortunately, two Astons decided to slow down in the middle of the Porsche Curves, which was a little frustrating.
“Generally, from our point-of-view it was a bit of a surprise to see the Peugeots going so fast. We didn't expect that kind of lap time from them, considering the regulation changes and everything else, so they've obviously done a good job, or alternatively focussed very heavily on qualifying. From our side, we're working quite hard to try and get a race set-up instead of thinking about qualifying, but we are a bit quicker than what we showed there.”