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Audi McNish Le Mans13Fellow Briton Jarvis aims for maiden victory in legendary 24 Hour race.

Allan McNish starts the 81st Le Mans 24 Hours on Saturday (22 June) aiming to win the legendary race for a third time and re-take the lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The Dumfries-born driver who won the annual French race in 1998 & 2008 drives a hybrid-diesel Audi sportscar in the twice-around-the-clock endurance race.

McNish shares his Audi R18 e-tron quattro with eight-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Loïc Duval (France) aiming to earn Audi a 12th Le Mans victory.

This year’s twice-around-the-clock race is the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, McNish/Kristensen/Duval having finished first (Silverstone, GB) and second (Spa, B) which leaves the trio trailing Audi team-mates and 2011 & ’12 Le Mans winners, Marcel Fässler (CH)/André Lotterer (D)/Benoît Tréluyer (F), by a mere one point.

With 50-points on offer to the Le Mans winning drivers in the eight-race WEC which concludes in Bahrain (November), McNish has a double incentive for more Le Mans glory.

McNish said: “Le Mans has been and always will be, the biggest and most important sportscar race in the world. For people not that interested in motor racing, most will have heard of the Monaco Grand Prix in Formula One, the Indianapolis 500 in the States and Le Mans.

“Le Mans has its own character, its own unique feel – it’s like soccer’s World Cup Final but for motorsport. When the fans start to arrive, the roads and car parks are invariably lined with British registered cars – it is a big event not only for British drivers but our country as a whole. The motorsport community basically congregates there for half the month of June.

“As Le Mans is the biggest race of the year, it’s therefore the one as a driver you most want to win. Standing on the winners’ podium, even if it is for second or third position, is a huge achievement. I’ve stood up there eight times, twice on the very top step, and I want to be up there again this year.

“But Le Mans nowadays is also part of the FIA World Endurance Championship and unlike the other seven races, it earns double points. So a non-finish effectively ends your championship title dream. However, a victory would be a huge benefit to my championship campaign. So it’s a delicate balance between pushing and conservation but I’m a racing driver and so push hard all of the time. Tom, Loïc and I have a clear objective and that’s to go out and win the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours.

“This year’s race is my 14th Le Mans 24 Hours and from a physical point of view, I don’t find it that difficult. Like all of the Audi Sport drivers, I train very hard and am totally prepared in this respect.

“The Audi Sport team, its designers and engineers, have been focussing on this race since the day after Audi scored a 1-2-3 in last year’s race! The intensity builds months beforehand to make sure all the parts are prepared. We’ve completed endurance testing and tyre testing, specifically for Le Mans, so lots has gone into our preparations before we arrive at the beginning of race week.

“Emotionally it is a tough week. I’ll arrive in Le Mans on Sunday (16 Jun). Drivers’ sign-on at scrutineering the following day where officials also check over the Audi R18 e-tron quattro to ensure it meets the necessary regulations. Qualifying finishes at midnight on Wednesday and Thursday nights. We will have almost 30 separate meetings before the race begins on Saturday afternoon. Additionally there is a lot of press and PR to undertake with over 1,500 media present.

“There are certain procedures we practice plus driver change training that are repeated over and over again before the race, so there is no real ‘down’ time where you take a breath. So when the race does actually begin, a lot of energy has already been sapped. But the adrenaline pumps and emotions are high. The entire team has to totally concentrate for 24hours so that everything is done perfectly.

“There is absolutely no point in the race where anyone can relax and emotionally I find that more draining than the physical side. It is a race like no other. But it can also be one of the sweet points, standing on the podium, relishing the excitement, the enjoyment, the champagne and for that matter, the relief.

“The opening two WEC races have gone very well with Tom, Loïc and I winning the first race in dramatic style at Silverstone then finishing second at Spa. In terms of Audi, it was a 1-2 at Silverstone and a 1-2-3 at Spa so it’s been a great way to kick off the 2013 campaign.

“This year’s Le Mans will be the first since 2006 that I haven’t co-driven with Dindo Capello who has now retired from sports-prototype racing.

“Loïc has joined Tom and I in our car this season as a full time member and has fitted in very well. He’s got a different way of working and attitude than Dindo but only in so much that he’s a different character.

“Tom and I like his style and speed. I’m certain that this relationship will be a strong one that will develop.”

Meanwhile fellow Briton Oliver Jarvis starts the race hopeful that his third attempt will earn him a maiden victory in the legendary French race.

The 29-year-old from Burwell near Newmarket shares his R18 e-tron quattro with ex-Formula One drivers Marc Gené (Spain) and Lucas di Grassi (Brazil).

Jarvis made his Le Mans debut for the Audi “customer” Kolles team in 2010 but recorded an excellent third place for the “factory Audi team in last year’s race.

Again part of the “factory” Audi squad, Jarvis races the hybrid-diesel Audi for the first time at Le Mans – the third time in 2013 after a win (Sebring) and third (Spa) – in what is undoubtedly Jarvis’s biggest race of the season.

Jarvis commented: “Le Mans is the big one. It’s the race everybody wants to win and every driver wants on his CV. Since first attending the race as a spectator in 2008, I fell in love with it.

“I competed for the first time in 2010 for the Kolles Audi team and went there last year, as part of the Audi Sport ‘works’ squad for the first time, and finished on the podium which was unbelievable.

“This year, I am heading to the race better prepared and more motivated than ever. To put into words the mix of emotions you feel is very difficult. The race is like no other in terms of atmosphere, excitement, mental and physical stresses and the fact that we’re at Le Mans for over a week before the race starts!

“Audi Sport has been preparing for this race for a year – since it scored its 11th victory there last year essentially – an entire year for just one 24 hour race. The moment you arrive at the race track, you instantly feel the magic that exists.

“As the spectators start to arrive, you feel the atmosphere building, but with that, you also feel the tension as race day draws closer. During the race itself you feel a mix of emotions that can change in a split second.

“You can go from despair one second, to joy the next. That’s what makes Le Mans special and to win it would be a dream come true.”

Audi has optimised the R18 e-tron quattro for 2013

The output of the electric motors have been increased to more than 80 kilowatts delivering around 200hp transmitted through its front axle above 75mph at seven specific “zones” around the 8.47-mile Le Mans track using power “harvested” under braking. An air restrictor limits the 3.7-litre, V6 TDI engine to deliver approximately 490hp while the minimum weight is 915kg.

The bodywork features numerous refined details compared to last year’s WEC & Le Mans winning R18 e-tron quattro.

The organising FIA Endurance Committee recently made “Balance of Performance” adjustments. While the fuel tank capacity of the hybrid-diesel Audi remains at 58-litres (12.76 gallons), the hybrid-petrol Toyota has had its tank capacity increased to 76-litres (16.72gal).

Audi Sport Team Joest enters a three-car “works” team bidding for a 12th Le Mans victory since the German manufacturer made its debut in the legendary French race in 1999.

Race Week Timetable

Wednesday 19 June
16:00-20:00 Practice
22:00-24:00 Qualifying 1

Thursday 20 June
19:00-21:00 Qualifying 2
22:00-24:00 Qualifying 3

Friday 21 June
1400 Audi Press Conference, Audi Racing Arena, Parc du Raccordement
17:00-19:00 Drivers’ Parade (City centre)

Saturday 22 June
09.00-09:45 Warm-Up
14:22 Beginning of starting procedure 24 Heures du Mans
15:00 Start of the 81st race of the 24 Heures du Mans ®

* All times above are local and are +1hr BST

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