McNish diary

Following Audi's historic 1-2-3 at Le Mans last month, the team regrouped for the Nurburgring round of the American Le Mans Series' European leg. This time, things didn't run quite as planned, as Allan McNish tells us

McNish diary

This weekend's ELMS race was the first time the Audi crew have assembled since our 1-2-3 at Le Mans three weeks ago. To celebrate in France we held a small party after the race but having endured 24 hours of non-stop racing it came as no surprise when most people retired to their hotels or headed back home about 7pm. Having had some time off everyone arrived here at the Nurburgring refreshed and with the same eagerness to tackle the challenge of the European Le Mans Series.

BMW and Panoz were keen to make amends for the display of Audi domination witnessed at Le Mans. There was no question of Audi taking it easy in the wake of our performance, there are plenty of races remaining in this series and we're striving to win them all.

I'm back partnering Dindo Capello in the No.77 Audi R8. We've developed a good relationship since our pairing together at Audi. I'm teaching him Scottish and he's slowly getting the hang of it but I'm still trying to convince him Haggis is actually an edible substance!

Dindo took the wheel for qualifying on Saturday. We have a general rule of thumb to take it in turn but I've had the pleasure for the last two outings -- I qualified at Silverstone as Dindo allowed me to take the reigns at my home circuit! As a result of this I've had to a great extent an easy weekend. On Saturday I played second fiddle to Capello and generally backed him up. He's put in the majority of the work and I'm there to reap any rewards!

Since we arrived our car was first or second in all sessions. It was difficult to drive initially, as it was very much on the edge. We made a small adjustment on Friday to the front of the car and it had a dramatic effect. We then did the same on the rear and the car transformed from being edgy and nervous to safe and most importantly, quick!

I have to admit it was a funny experience watching Dindo qualify. This was the first time since March I've not qualified the car and it was a bizarre experience watching from the pits. That said I had no doubts that Dindo would do a good job. He had a look in his eye prior to the session and I was confident he would get pole. What I didn't expect was that it would be with a margin of over half a second from our sister Audi.

Prior to the race I had the pleasure of driving three laps in a 1989 Audi GTO as driven by Messrs Hans J. Stuck, Walter Rohrl and Hurley Haywood. It formed part of a parade of historic Audi's that had been on display all weekend. Sitting in the car felt like I was sitting directly in the engine. The noise was incredible. I felt every vibration and can still smell the fumes. The exhaust on the GTO was the equivalent of an industrial waste pipe. This thing was massive and ran right through the centre of the car and then out the side. I was surprised by how well it handled and the balance was as good as my R8 despite the GTO being 11 years old!

Unfortunately when it came to the race both Audis were beaten away at the start. Dindo was doing the first stint but immediately our game plan had to be altered due to dropping places. Once we got going though, the car was up to speed but another twist came in the form of the weather as the clouds began to drop their load after nearly an hour. This threw the grid into confusion as people pitted for wet tyres. We, like the majority of the grid came in for wets but Magnussen played it right and remained on slicks. After 10 minutes it stopped raining and the track began to dry out. It was a complete gamble on his part but he called it just right!

When I took over from Capello after an hour and a half, we were back on slicks but it then started to rain again. I pitted for wet tyres but I spun on the first lap out the pits. This was really a combination of cold tyres and no grip. A consequence of my spin was a stalled engine and it took a while to get some life back into it. Once back on track I was really moving and my times were quicker than everyone else. The rain started to get worse and the car was proving trickier to drive but I had everything under control.

Then disaster struck as I was flat out from the right hander heading towards the Veedol chicane (the slowest part of the circuit), the car aquaplaned and I slid off sideways at speed. The underfloor of the car was ripped off immediately due to the way the car was bouncing on the grass. I managed to drive the R8 back to the pits but our day was effectively over.

It's disappointing to come away from the Nurburgring without any points, as we were confident of a podium position. This weekend has proved to be a reality check after the highs of Le Mans! One minute you can be on top of the world and the next you find the carpet being whipped away from beneath you. Our trip to Germany has highlighted that this is an extremely competitive championship and we're going to have to keep fighting all the way.

Our next race is on the 23rd July at Sears Point, California, where I'm reliably informed it will not rain!

ELMS Nurburgring - Panoz triumphes

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