Allan Mcnish has just published a great blog post on his website reflecting on the 8 hour race at Paul Ricard and the first win for the R15 Plus. I love hearing from the drivers directly and this gives us even more reason to get excited for Le Mans! Enjoy the read…
Well the first race is over and I don’t think anyone at Audi Sport could have hoped for a better result at Paul Ricard. Giving the R15 Plus its first victory follows in the same vane as with the R8, R10 TDI and R15 TDI – Audi’s fine tradition of scoring a début race win first time out with its latest sportscar.
Winning at Ricard was a positive surprise. Before arriving at Le Castellet, Dindo and I had effectively done one day of dry weather testing. So we were very early in our learning process. It was important from the drivers’ point of view to get on with the job and for us and the team to start on a good and firm footing.
The competition from Peugeot, the factory-assisted ORECA squad, was quite strong – we know those French guys very well and I personally have great respect for them – I know first hand what they’re capable of having driven for ORECA. So we knew we’d have strong competition from those guys never mind Aston Martin, Rebellion and some of the others.
We worked hard in practice to make the car fast but also to make the car comfortable to drive. It was an eight hour race, with just two drivers, Dindo and I, after it was agreed a few days before by Audi Sport’s Dr Christian John and Tom himself that the ‘Great Dane’ concentrated on his forthcoming testing commitments as opposed to racing with us at Ricard.
If it had been three drivers with ‘Tommy Boy’ it would have been easier for sure. Effectively Dindo and I were having to drive the equivalent of almost three Grands Prix distances each. Ricard is a difficult track physically and that combined with the slower traffic we would encounter, it was going to be quite tough.
The R15 Plus had good straight line speed as well as good lap speed and by the time the race day arrived we’d got a good balance on the car which we were ultimately put good use. I would have loved the intensity of the first hour of the race to have continued but unfortunately it expired to a degree when the ORECA Peugeot had a problem early on.
Their problem left us on our own but we still pushed hard to learn as much about the car as possible in readiness for Le Mans. It was vital to get as much race experience of the R15 Plus as we could. We possibly missed that element last year to a degree but we’ve learned from that.
So sitting here at home on the Monday after the race, looking back on it, the result was a little unexpected because we didn’t think we’d have that kind of performance so early on in the R15 Plus programme and for it to run so well and so reliably. But we also take back to Ingolstadt a lot of very useful information and knowledge about our new car.
I’m quite satisfied with another win for Dindo and I in the new R15 Plus. It was the best possible way to start the season.
However and with respect, we must remember that we were racing a ‘customer’ Peugeot and not the latest ‘factory’ Pugs. But we’ll all be out in full force at Spa early next month. We’ll be there with three cars as will Peugeot, the Le Mans Series regulars.
It’s going to be an amazing pre-Le Mans race in Belgium and with just a month or so to the Big One in June, combined with a lot of testing we have planned, it’ll hopefully put us in good shape to getting back the Le Mans trophy. Speak soon . . .