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British Comp. Driver: Allan McNish

Allan McNish has won the British Competition Driver award at the Autosport Awards in London

British Comp. Driver: Allan McNish

McNish, who won the Le Mans 24 Hours for the second time this year with Audi, beat off competition from Lewis Hamilton, Paul di Resta and Justin Wilson among others for the award, which was voted for by Autosport readers.

A surprised McNish said: "Considering what Lewis has achieved this year, to have someone else winning this award is a big achievement.

"Looking at Le Mans this year, it's the hardest I've ever driven - battling with Peugeot for 23 and a half hours. And after last year when we had it in the bag, and had the wheel come off, it was pretty special."

As a contemporary of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, and having been taken under McLaren's wing during his junior career, McNish should by rights have been a major Formula One star, but ultimately his single season with the fledgling Toyota team in 2002 proved to be his only shot at the top level.

Instead he became a hero in sportscars, where he has become - along with his teammate Kristensen (who presented him with his award) - the outstanding talent of the modern era.

With his single-seater career faltering, McNish made several appearances in customer Porsche 911 GT1s during 1997, and impressed enough to earn a call-up by the factory team before the end of the season.

He duly delivered his first Le Mans 24 Hours victory the following year before joining Toyota's sportscar project when Porsche pulled out in 1999. Although he only raced once at Le Mans for Toyota, his association with the company would lead to his testing - and then racing - role with the manufacturer's F1 team.

In the meantime, he began his partnership with Audi in 2000 and won the American Le Mans Series, his first sportscar title. He would return to Audi after his F1 sojourn, winning the Sebring 12 Hours in 2004 and then competing for the company's customer teams and in the DTM while waiting for R10 TDi to launch.

Another two ALMS LMP1 titles followed with the new car, along with a second Sebring victory, but a Le Mans repeat eluded McNish until this season, when the Scot and teammates Kristensen and Dindo Capello brilliantly overcame the faster Peugeots to win an epic race.

That was the icing on the cake in what was possibly McNish's greatest season yet. Bad luck prevented a Le Mans Series title shot, but the relentless pressure he applied on the Peugeots played a crucial role in allowing the Audi team to snatch the championships.

He also won his fourth Petit Le Mans with a performance that will go down in sportscar legend. An uncharacteristic crash on the way to the grid left McNish two laps down at the start. Undaunted, he mounted a breathtaking fightback to make up the deficit and then beat the works Peugeot to victory in a spectacular final stint shoot-out.

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