Britain’s Allan McNish looks to take a step closer to becoming this year’s FIA World Endurance Champion by steering his “factory” hybrid-diesel Audi R18 e-tron quattro to victory in the Six Hours of Fuji in Japan on Sunday (20 Oct).
Dumfries-born McNish and his “factory” Audi co-drivers Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval lead the eight race series by 33-points having scored an impressive three wins and two second places in the previous five races.
But still with 78pts up for grabs McNish, who missed out on last year’s World title by 13.5pts, is not taking anything for granted.
“Tom, Loïc and I have a clear objective in Japan - to win the race from pole-position like we did in the previous race in Texas,” commented McNish.
“That’s our objective but I’m also sure there is going to be very strong competition from Toyota and of course the ‘sister’ Audi so there is still a long way to go in terms of the title race but we’re looking forward to the fight.”
Audi’s double Le Mans 24 Hour race winning hybrid-diesel R18 is undefeated this season and while the McNish Audi will face stern competition from defending WEC champions Marcel Fässler (CH)/André Lotterer (D)/Benoît Tréluyer (F) in the “sister” Audi Sport Team Joest R18, arch rival Toyota enters two cars for its “home” race.
Allan continued: “The Audi’s aero ‘package’ is improved compared to last year’s R18, we worked hard last winter with our tyre partner Michelin while the hybrid and diesel engine have been refined, details that have combined to make us [Audi] very competitive so far this season.
“But our wining advantage was just 23 seconds after six hours of hard racing last time out in America so I fully expect Toyota, who are doubling up their efforts with a two-car entry, to be out for revenge especially on ‘home’ soil.
“With Loïc in our car this year, Tom and I can also benefit from local knowledge as he still races single-seaters in Japan.
“That experience could be very helpful especially as our main championship rivals are Marcel, André and Ben. André also still races regularly in Japan while Ben has previously raced over there so circuit knowledge will be important. I spent a lot of time in Japan in my early career but not so much at Fuji.”
In last year’s corresponding race around the 2.84-mile Fuji track that sits in the shadows of Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan and 60-miles south-west of Tokyo, the McNish/Kristensen Audi finished third.
“Last year’s corresponding race was the first time Tom and I had raced on the new configuration and it was a baptism of fire,” reflected McNish. “Our set-up was not ideal and it was a tough battle to finish third.
“Fuji is a track basically split into two main sectors. The first part is the old circuit and is fast and flowing. The second section is new, very slow and tricky.”
Practice begins on Friday with qualifying for start positions on the near 30-car grid on Saturday with Sunday’s race scheduled to start at 3am (BST).