New Audi wins on debut

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Audi’s new turbodiesel R15 emulated its R8 and R10 prototype predecessors by notching up a debut victory in the Sebring 12 Hours.

Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello claimed a narrow victory over Peugeot in the American Le Mans Series opener in March.

A trouble-free run for the lead R15 TDI resulted in a new distance record for Sebring, the 1417.1 miles completed by the winning car surpassing the 2001 mark set by the R8.

Audi Sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich described the victory as “a great result for a brand-new car that came to Sebring with less mileage than we had planned”.

Once again McNish (above) played a pivotal role in an Audi victory over Peugeot. Over the final hour he pulled out enough of a gap over Franck Montagny, who drove with Sébastien Bourdais and Stéphane Sarrazin in the Peugeot 908 HDi, to be able to make a last-gasp splash-and-dash fuel stop to complete the victory.

Peugeot was not too despondent about another defeat to Audi in one of the big enduros. It took solace from the pace of the 2009-spec Peugeot around a track it claims is not suited to the 908, and from the team’s improved pitwork and tactics.

McNish dismissed the suggestion that the Sebring victory makes Audi clear favourites for the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. “To say we are favourites just because we have won with a new car is a bit presumptuous,” he said. “The Peugeot was quick here, which suggests it will be quick at Le Mans. We have five seconds a lap to catch up [from last year] and no test day to
prove the car.”

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