The Big Interview Pt 1: Audi's Allan McNish

Allan McNish discusses his part in the Audi team leading the World Endurance Championship.
Allan McNish found it tough at Le Mans
McNish toughs it out at Le Mans © DPPI
By Matt Youson

Allan, Congratulations on another victory at Le Mans. Does it get easier?
In a word, no! This year was probably the toughest Le Mans I’ve had. The weather was the worst kind. Just sitting on the grid the rain started to come down. It wasn’t enough to go to wet tyres but it was too much to be confident on slicks. And it came and went: corner-to-corner for much of the race, not even lap-to-lap.

When the chequered flag dropped, I felt a huge amount of relief

If it started to spit going into Mulsanne, you didn’t know whether to brake at 200 metres, at 100m, at 300m… but leave it two metres too late and that would be it for you, you’d be in the wall. And that was the trend all the way through.

Usually at Le Mans you can get into a rhythm on the track but not this year. I don’t think I did a single stint that wasn’t interrupted by a change in conditions or a safety car. It makes it difficult to know quite where you are.

You’re constantly doing a risk assessment on what you can gain and what you might lose - more so than any other Le Mans I’ve been to. It meant that, at the end, when the chequered flag dropped, I felt a huge amount of relief.

Tom Kristensen was behind the wheel for that final stint, with more rain starting to fall. What do you feel at that point? Are you desperate to be driving or happy to leave it to a team-mate?
It’s a funny situation. I was supposed to go into the car at the end, for the last two stints and I was getting prepared for that. And then the weather came quite quickly.

Emotionally, you are in the car

Then it was clear Tom would stay in because you don’t want to be changing at that point: going from a slick tyre to a wet and putting a new driver in at the same time – because he’d not really be sure where the track was. We had a cushion at that point but it wasn’t a big one. We had to make one more pitstop than the Toyota, so realistically our lead was only around one-and-a-half minutes.

Tom was perfectly OK with staying in the car and if I’m honest it’s probably the sort of situation where he’s at his absolute best. As for Loïc and I, you want to be in the car.

Emotionally you are in the car. You’re watching the onboards and you want to be in there because if you’re in the car you have control of the situation. But then again you don’t want to be in the car because it’s all there to go wrong with an hour to go: you could hit a puddle, somebody could spin in front of you. Anything could happen. So there’s two sides to the answer: you want to be driving but you’re quite glad somebody else is. Clear? No, of course not.

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