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– Audi aims for 11th win in 12 hour sportscar race since 1999 debut
– Allan McNish to debut new 2013-spec R18 e-tron quattro

British duo Allan McNish and Oliver Jarvis are both eager to sign off Audi’s participation from a historic sportscar endurance race by scoring the German manufacturer’s 11th victory on Saturday (16 March).

Dumfries-born McNish and fellow Audi Sport “factory” driver Jarvis, from Burwell near Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, race separate diesel-hybrid Audi R18 e-tron quattro sports-prototypes in the Sebring 12 Hours.

Audi defends its Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship that gets underway at Silverstone (14 April). For McNish, who will again compete in the entire eight-race WEC and Jarvis who, like last year, contests two WEC races at Spa and the Le Mans 24 Hours, Sebring is a “bonus” race, especially for Jarvis who recently claimed GT class honours in the Daytona 24 Hours.

McNish confirmed: “I’m really looking forward to Sebring. It’s always an intense race and I have the chance of maybe another podium or even better a fifth win.

“It’s the toughest and most gruelling race I’ve done – more so than Le Mans because there is no respite. The weather is invariably hot and humid, the high-speed track is very bumpy and with the number of cars on track, I’m lucky if I get a single second to relax on each lap.

“It’s hard on the car, which gets bashed and knocked around, and the driver plus the engineers and mechanics as well – they have really got to be on their toes throughout the 12 hours.”

“Factory” or “customer” Audi teams have competed at Sebring each year except one since the German car manufacturer made its debut in 1999 but the 61st running of the annual race in Florida is likely to be its last in the foreseeable future due to 2014 regulations that outlaw Audi’s LMP1 sports-prototype.

Four-time Sebring race winner McNish and Tom Kristensen (DK), who has won at Sebring a record six times, are joined by Lucas di Grassi (BR) in a brand new 2013-specification R18 e-tron quattro.

“While Sebring marks the start of my race season for Audi Sport it will unfortunately be the end of an era,” continued Allan. “I’ve contested 50 American Le Mans Series races since it was formed in 1999 but after next year’s merger, Audi’s current sports-prototype will be ineligible to race. So it’s clear that we [Audi Sport] would love the opportunity to be standing again on the top step of the podium.

“There’s always a variety of spectators from the ‘die hard’ race fans, casual fans who come for the atmosphere of the ‘carnival’ and the guys that have seen so many more Sebring’s than I will ever see.

“It really is an impressive sight and one you cannot replicate anywhere else in the world. 150,000 people crammed in to a venue in the middle of Florida, for what can only be described as an intense ‘party’ off the track and a hell of a race on it.

Meanwhile Jarvis makes his Sebring race debut driving a 2012-specification Audi Sport Team Joest hybrid-diesel Audi R18 for the first time with Marcel Fässler (CH) and Benoît Tréluyer (F).

Oliver said: “It’s great to be heading back to America after my success in the Daytona 24 Hours in January. I’d always wanted to race in the US and I’ve now an opportunity to be part of a second world-famous event in North America.

“I was an interested spectator in the Audi pit during last year’s Sebring race which we [Audi] won and then tested at the track the following week.

“I raced a diesel-engined R18 ultra last year at Spa and Le Mans, finishing third in both, but my first Sebring start will also be my first taste of the hybrid-diesel R18 e-tron quattro in a race.

“So any experience I gain ready for this year’s Spa and Le Mans races will be very beneficial. However, I’m not approaching this race as a ‘test’. Together with my co-drivers Ben and Marcel, who I’ve never previously shared a car with, we have high hopes of fighting for victory.

“The race itself will be extremely challenging in part to the nature of the [bumpy] track but also because of the [ambient] temperatures.”

Audi recorded the first major international race win for a diesel-engined sportscar when McNish/Kristensen/Capello won at Sebring in 2006 while this year’s Sebring race sees the race debut in North America of the hybrid-diesel Audi R18 e-tron quattro.

McNish, Kristensen and Capello hold the record Sebring race distance (383 laps/1,417.1miles) and fastest race average speed (117.98mph) from 2009.

Audi has scored debut race wins at Sebring with the R8 (2000), R10 TDI (2006) and R15 TDI (2009).

An entry of around 40-cars is expected for the ALMS opening race of the 2013 season. Qualifying around the 3.74-mile track is staged on Friday (1815*) with the race getting underway at 1430* on Saturday.

Audi Sport UK’s 1996 British Touring Car Champion, Frank Biela (D) plus Dindo Capello (IT), Marco Werner (D) and Emanuele Pirro (IT), who have amassed 25 top-three podiums between them at Sebring including 14 outright wins, will also be present to witness Audi’s Sebring “farewell”.

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