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– McNish determined to increase FIA World Endurance Championship points lead
– Jarvis using Belgian race as an important Le Mans “dress rehearsal” in “long tail” R18

FIA World Endurance Championship leader Allan McNish along with fellow Briton Oliver Jarvis race their respective hybrid diesel Audi sportscars in Belgium on Saturday (4 May) aiming for a trouble-free “dress rehearsal” for Le Mans.

The Spa Six Hours is the final race before next month’s annual 24 Hour race in France (22-23 June) and sees a three-car hybrid diesel Audi R18 e-tron quattro entry from defending Le Mans race winners Audi Sport Team Joest.

Dumfries-born McNish and Jarvis, from Burwell near Newmarket, have both tasted victory in 2013, the Scot winning the opening WEC race at Silverstone last month (14 Apr) while Jarvis was victorious in Audi’s one-off American Le Mans Series race at Sebring in March.

McNish is joined by regular co-drivers Tom Kristensen (DK) and Loïc Duval (F) while Jarvis co-drives alongside Marc Gené (SP) and Lucas di Grassi (BR) for the first time.

Whereas McNish/Kristensen/Duval along with Marcel Fässler (CH)/André Lotterer (D)/Benoît Tréluyer (F) contest the full eight-race WEC, Jarvis/Gené/di Grassi only compete at Spa and Le Mans.

At Spa, the third “factory” Audi Sport Team Joest entry of Jarvis/Gené/di Grassi will be a “long tail” Audi R18 e-tron quattro featuring a rear aero package specifically optimised for the high-speed Le Mans track.

All three R18 e-tron quattro sportscars deliver over 200hp through its front axle above 75mph using power “harvested” under braking at five specific “zones” around the 4.35-mile track Spa-Francorchamps in addition to the 490hp transmitted through its rear wheels from the 3.7-litre, V6 turbo diesel TDI engine.

McNish, who started from pole-position and finished fourth in the corresponding race last year, commented: “I’ve always enjoyed driving at Spa. It has a natural flow like all great tracks and is interesting and challenging in every category of car. It features legendary corners like Eau Rouge and Pouhon. Eau Rouge is one of the greatest corners in the world but now with modern car performance it’s not quite so daunting as it used to be. Pouhon has become a corner that you really must focus and concentrate on. The track has also produced some fantastic races in the past, partly due to the changeable weather combined to the challenge the track itself throws up. It’s also a tough track on car, driver and tyres due to the length of the circuit and high speed. Everything needs to be dialled in perfectly to achieve success but even then there can always be an element of surprise at Spa.

“We’ve a much better understanding of our R18 e-tron quattro than when we arrived at Spa 12 months ago for its race debut. This will mark the ninth race for Audi’s hybrid diesel since its debut and the third race with the 2013 spec featuring a number of evolutions.”

An added incentive for the Scotsman is that he has yet to win at the famous Belgian track.

Allan added: “I start the race with reasonable confidence that we’ll achieve the ‘window’ of performance during the two practice sessions before qualifying with everything crammed in on Friday prior to Saturday’s race.

“But I have an eye on the competition. Toyota will run two cars, one a brand new 2013-spec car making its race debut, and you can guarantee they will be looking to make amends on the one lap defeat we meted out to them in the Silverstone opening race.

“For Tom, Loïc and I, we head to Spa leading the championship following our narrow Silverstone victory. It’ll only be our second race together with Loïc but we gelled very quickly with him at Silverstone while we’re all getting to know our engineer Kyle [Wilson-Clarke] and his assistant David Brown better with every race. The relationship with driver, engineers and team, is one that has made Audi Sport Team Joest the success that it is in sportscar racing.

“It will be one thing to try and get the right set-up on the car while tyre choice is going to be critical.

“But the car is working well and we have a good feel for it. I believe the development we’ve done over the winter will suit Spa while I believe the track also suits the driving styles of Tom, Loïc and myself.”

Last year Jarvis finished third at Spa and Le Mans in his two sports-prototype outings and is looking to quickly form a good relationship with his two new co-drivers at Spa as well as keeping one eye on Le Mans.

“I began my ‘factory’ Audi Sport Team Joest sports-prototype career at the corresponding Spa race 12 months ago with a podium result and that’s where I’d like to be standing again, or possibly even higher,” said Jarvis.

“I went on to also finish third at Le Mans and then won the Sebring 12 Hours earlier this year so two third places and a confidence-boosting maiden sports-prototype victory is a pretty good start but I desperately want to keep the momentum going.

“I feel better prepared having competed at Sebring, and having raced an R8 sportscar to GT honours in the Daytona 24 Hours in January, so I feel ‘match fit’ and sharp.

“For me personally Spa will be another learning curve as I’ll have new team-mates in Marc [Gené] and Lucas [di Grassi] while I raced the R18 ultra at Spa last year as opposed to the hybrid diesel I raced for the first time at Sebring this year. Spa will give me an opportunity to gel with Marc and Lucas. Our R18 e-tron quattro will be in Le Mans configuration in terms of aerodynamics so it could be that our ‘sister’ Audi sportscars will be slightly better suited to the Spa track with their ‘aero’ but it will give Marc, Lucas and I an opportunity to develop the car in advance of Le Mans.

“We of course go to Spa to achieve the best possible result. We’re all focused but none of us underestimate the competition from within Audi Sport Team Joest or down the pit lane in general. It’s a tough field but we enjoy the competition.”

Timetable & Championship details (times are local, +1hr BST)

Friday 3 May: Practice (0900-1100 & 1430-1630), Qualifying (1930-2000)

Saturday 4 May: Warm-up (0900-0930), Race (1430-2030)

Entry: 35-cars

Points: 1st McNish/Kristensen/Duval, 25pts. 2nd Lotterer/Tréluyer/Fässler, 18pts. 3rd Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin, 15pts. 4th Wurz/Lapierre, 13pts. (25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 awarded to top-10. Points doubled at Le Mans. One point for pole-position).

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