“We did the driver rotation for the night practice and I went in and had one run at qualifying, which wasn't ideal, starting really your first acclimatisation of the circuit for the day in the dark on a qualifying run, but it was a good lap and it put us a bit closer. It was interesting that they (Peugeot) then started to push again, but they either went off, made a mistake or did something. We're closer, we're all happier with the car and more comfortable, but we still have the knowledge that they're a little bit faster.”
Over a race distance, however – and particularly one as long as 24 hours – McNish is well aware that consistency and durability are of infinitely more importance than one-lap speed. Whilst far from underestimating the threat from Peugeot – including the separately-run Oreca entry – having been defeated this time twelve months ago on all three of the above counts, the 40-year-old is insistent that this time around, Audi has returned to La Sarthe fully-prepared and equipped with all the tools it needs to do the job properly and steal back its Le Mans crown.
“Peugeot got the upper hand partly because they learned the lessons from us,” he concluded. “In 2008 they saw how we did it – which I think we did very well. Last year I think we underperformed ourselves. The R15 came here and I was on the front row; it wasn't much of a difference and it took Sarrazin three attempts to get pole, so that was an interesting point from our side. In the race, though, we missed the set-up completely and had a couple of reliability issues – little things like intercoolers getting blocked and things like that – which meant that they had a runaway victory.
“This year, we've planned our whole testing programme around Le Mans; we've planned our whole racing programme around Le Mans. I don't think there can be more commitment to focussing on this race than compromising your races prior to it in the Le Mans Series which are on high-downforce tracks, by running those particular events with a Le Mans set-up, even though it was detrimental to the performance there.
“For me, when the green light goes on, the race starts, no messing around. It's a flat-out sprint now; the reliability is there – we don't think about gearbox failures or saving this or that, you drive flat-out, and it's the best way. We have prepared, I think, better than we did last year – more cleanly, more clinically, more focussed and also in a slightly calmer way – and now we're going to find out whether that was the right way to do it.”