Q & A with Allan McNish

Q. How much of an honour is it to receive the Segrave Trophy?

Q & A with Allan McNish

Allan McNish: I didn't expect or know very much about it until I received notification of it. Then I looked into it and I realised what Segrave had done himself. The story that got me was that when he was [mortally] injured his last croak was to find out if he had beaten a record. That made me think he was made of gutsy stuff.

But the difference is that is not just within in a restricted area of sport, it's so wide and not just about results. It's partly the way the results were achieved, whether they are firsts or thirds, it doesn't matter it's the manner they were gained that is important to the panel judges.

When you see the people around the room, like [Land Speed Record holder] Andy Green, which is totally different to what we are trying to do, but his achievements are nonetheless absolutely up there. That's what I think makes it very special and very different, and for me when I looked through the list and saw Donald and Malcolm Campbell and the whole... 'She's going, she's going...' all those words you hear from being a little boy. Or Geoff Duke and my dad saying; 'Oh Dukey, he was the boy'.

We have to start somewhere and have an interest, and mine came from hearing those stories and now to be on the bottom of a trophy with all of those people on it you think crickey that is quite an honour. I'm quite proud in a very different way to when I lifted any of the other trophies I did in racing. It is just so different.

Q. Does it say something about you and the legacy you hope to leave?

AM: It's part of the personality as well as talent behind the wheel. My career has not always been on the up, there have been down moments and I think you have to have a bit of a Segrave mentality to fight through those rather than go and sell second hand in Dumfries.

Q. But for now you have achieved everything a sportscar driver can achieve, haven't you?

AM: I've achieved in terms of wins but if I look at Le Mans there is no way I am ever going to catch Tom, so records aren't something that stick in my mind. I look forward to the battle, the scrap. And that is why I think 2008, for me, was one of the most fun years. Every race, whether we won or lost... Barcelona was excellent fun. It was a case of getting stuck in there and fighting and that says a lot about my nature.

But that fun side of it. If you speak to all of the Peugeot drivers, every one will say the same thing even as much as you are disappointed when you don't win. The fights have been good fights and that's what brings everybody there.

Q. So are you looking forward to next year?

AM: I think it's a good thing in a way, because it's the first time they [Audi] have had a punch in the nose for a wee while and on that side of things I think it is quite good just to refresh everybody's memory.

Also I think it is good because Peugeot will be back to defend the honour and so that sets us up pretty well, but there is no question that we have got to be better than we were to put them under the pressure that we need to do. That's how racing is.

Q. Do you need to be racing to make that happen?

AM: You do need to race, that's why it is called motor racing. This discussion, let's just quantify it a little bit. We have never, not with the R8 or the R10, raced between Sebring and Le Mans with that car. It has only ever been testing, so therefore that wouldn't have changed this year. If we were racing with the R10 we wouldn't have learned anything extra as to what we did in our testing.

The main problem with our testing was that it was rained out most of the time and when it wasn't we had two shunts. One at Sebring and one at Ricard, which then put us 30 hours behind. So we were a little bit late, and that is just a fact of life.

But of course we have to race, you cannot, as a driving crew or a team, go from Le Mans to Le Mans without being out there and going for it. That doesn't work, the competition is too high.

Q. What needs to change on the car for next year?

AM: Experience. We need experience with it. We need to be out there, that's the way that you find out. Testing, we have to do to get more of an understanding of it and then you have obviously got to race it because that's when you know whether you are good enough or not.

It's good that Peugeot has committed to those races at the end of the year because that is also good for Acura, it gives them a wee bit more status.

Q. Will it convince your bosses a little bit?

AM: Well I don't think it is a case of desire. The desire is there, it is just a case of all the ducks forming in a row. I don't know what will happen, I haven't got a clue.

Q. You've won a race and had a podium with the car, so the potential is obviously there?

AM: It's not a bad car. There is no way you could say it was a bad car because after Sebring we came out thinking it was tight, but the reliability was good and we came away as winners. So I think it at Le Mans, if we were able to have the pace we had at the end, right from the beginning, then we weren't out of the ballpark.

Q. Was the R15's tyre wear a significant factor in the defeat at Le Mans this year?

AM: The tyre thing is a bit of a myth. There is running your tyres for a long time for the sake of it and then there is a running them for a long time to be fast. The thing at Sebring, where people said we were going to lose the race because we can't double stint our tyres, but in reality Peugeot double-stinting their tyres lost them the race because they kept putting the wrong tyre on at the wrong point.

We didn't have all the information that we ultimately needed and we were just a bit light on experience.

McNish urges Audi to race R15 more
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