Allan McNish anchored a recovery drive at Petit Le Mans in October that deserves comparison with the great sports car comebacks of all time. The Audi star and team-mates Rinaldo Capello and Emanuele Pirro claimed a dramatic last-gasp victory in the 1000-mile enduro at Road Atlanta despite twice appearing to be out of contention.
The comeback is already being talked about in the same breath as Pedro Rodriguez’s fightback in the BOAC 1000kms at Brands Hatch in 1970 and the Jacky Ickx-inspired Porsche recovery at Le Mans in ’77. Not only did the McNish Audi start the American Le Mans Series encounter two laps after everyone else, but the car had dropped off the lead lap in the closing stages.
McNish spun on cold tyres on the way to the grid, damaging his R10 turbo-diesel prototype. The Champion Audi team repaired significant front-end damage in 45 minutes, allowing the Scot to start the race just over two laps behind the leaders.
A sequence of early-race safety car periods helped McNish to get back on the lead lap in just two hours and 20 minutes. But then a series of problems for Capello resulted in the car going a lap down with just over an hour to go.
Three more safety car periods and some clever tactics by Champion in the closing stages allowed McNish to get back on the lead lap, and a decision to change tyres at the car’s penultimate pitstop then gave him a vital edge in the race to the flag. McNish overtook fellow Audi driver Marco Werner and then Christian Klien in the solo Peugeot 908 over the final 40 laps to seal an amazing victory.
Afterwards McNish said: “That was a good one. I don’t think I’ve ever shouted into my helmet with excitement and happiness for the whole of the slowing down lap.”
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