McNish aiming for Le Mans hat-trickposted in LMANS15 | 06 | 2012
TWELVE MONTHS AFTER walking away from the horrific 140mph crash, which left his Audi R18TDI a mangled wreck propped up against a destroyed tyrewall, Allan McNish is back at Le Mans for another pop at the famous 24 Hours race (watch video of Allan McNish's Le Mans 24-Hours crash in 2011).
And as he relaxed, ironically 24 hours before the start of the race at 3pm tomorrow, the 42-year-old from Dumfries reflected on the spectacular crash, which was watched by millions on TV.
"It was a big accident, but not huge by any stretch of the imagination," he explained, immediately illustrating the mindset which allows racing drivers to jump back into a car and immediately go just as fast again (McNish talks about his Le Mans horror crash).
"When you watch it on TV, it looks much worse, and to me it wasn't the accident I was in. It looked like a completely different accident.
"I knew the car had rolled, and other various bits and pieces relating to the impact, but that's happened before in my career.
"I've been racing for 30 years. The law of averages says that's going to happen now and then.
Fifer Peter Dumbreck stays grounded at Le Mans
"Afterwards, I spoke with my Audi team-mate Tom Kristensen, and he told me that as he'd watched the crash live on the big TV screen in the garage, he'd thought 'whoever's in it is in an Audi, and they will walk away from it'. I must admit, I never really thought that when I was in the car."
The sickening second McNish's Audi was pitched into the air — after careering uncontrollably over the gravel trap — and speared into the tyrewall, instantly created a concerned and fearful silence around the 8.46-mile La Sarthe circuit. And nowhere was that silence louder than in the Audi garage.
One of the abiding images of the moments immediately after McNish's crash is that of Audi motorsport boss, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, watching ashen-faced as the events unfolded on TV.
The second McNish extrapolated himself from the disintegrated wreckage, and stood hands-on-knees as the reality of what he'd survived sunk in, Ullrich's eyes welled up.
"These are my boys," the German mastermind behind Audi's domination of the world's most gruelling 24-hours race for the past 12 years, smiled this week.
Marino Franchitti: Nissan DeltaWing ready for Le Mans
"The impact looked horrific. At the same time, I could hear on the radio that he was speaking with the crew, and that was an emotional moment.
"I saw Allan a few hours later after he'd been checked over by the medical staff, and he was still the cheeky wee Scotsman, and, as ever, always looking forward, and to coming back to Le Mans in 2012."
Now McNish and his Audi team are, indeed, back. And this year, having already established history by becoming the first diesel-powered car to win the race in 2006, bid to re-write the record books again by taking victory, tis time in their diesel-hybrid Audi e-tron quattro.
"It's another major step in the evolution of race cars, and introduces innovative technology which, through time, will become the norm in the cars you and I drive to work every day," McNish continued.
"Without giving you a science lesson, in addition to the diesel engine, we also have two electric motors which send power to the front wheels.
"Those engines receive their power through energy created by the car braking as we approach corners. Then that power, in turn, is automatically released again giving us an extra boost."
Allan McNish: Audi the team to beat
Simple it may sound, but the pioneering technology required Audi designers to shave 80kilos off the weight of last year's car in order to accommodate the hybrid technology and still remain below the 900kg regulation.
"Audi is an engineering-led company, and I think that develops a certain type of mentality to it," McNish, who is partnered by team-mates Kristensen, and Italian Dindo Capello this weekend, said,
"That, coupled with the German's metronomic way of looking at life, seems to work. But it means that our approach is definitely not marketing led: it's technically-led."
McNish though isn't the only Scot on the 56-car grid. While Kirkcaldy's Peter Dumbreck starts the race in 11th in his JRM Honda prototype, while Airdie's Ryan Dalziel was ninth-fastest LMP2 car, and 22nd overall, in his Starworks Honda.
UK debut for Ferrari 458 Spider
Most impressive though was Bathgate's Marino Franchitti, who lines up 29th in the equally pioneering 1.5-litre Nissan DeltaWing, which aims to complete the race using around half the fuel of other cars.
And while the second Audi e-tron quattro of last year's winner, German Andre Lotterer, starts from pole for the 80th running of the race, McNish's car qualified fourth.
"It's the headlines on Sunday that we want," the Scot, a double winner at Le Mans, smiled. "I'm happy for Andre to have pole, but we want the race win.
"That's why we're here, and that's exactly what we intend to do. It's been a long 12 months waiting to get back here, and I've got some unfinished business to do."
Audi Q2 set for Paris Motor Show debut
Keep up-to-date with all the latest news by following us on twitter.com/scotcars