Pat Michl: I’m here with Alan McNish, Audi driver extraordinare, at the beautiful new Miller Motorsports Park. Alan recently sent the Audi R8 into retirement in the best possible way, with a win to wrap up its career. Alan, I’d like to go back in time to your start with the R8 program, to the R8R. It was a short-lived car, which evolved into the R8, which had a very long life. Can you tell me a little about the R8R?
Well, I don’t think the R8R actually evolved into the R8. To be honest,
the R8 was a completely new design. The R8R was a little bit
hybrid, because it had the chassis from the previous car, from the
99 car, but it had the rear end, the gearbox, geometry, etc, from the
as we know it. We raced that car for 3 or 4 races in the ALMS
Sebring, like we have done with the R10 and the R8. That year (2000),
raced Sebring with the R8,and because of the testing program in
we went back to the R8R for Charlotte, Silverstone, and I
other race, and it was my first acquaintance with Audi, jumping into
car for the Sebring test. Overall, I was quite impressed with
drivability of it. There were areas we could improve, obviously, like
and general grip levels, but in terms of the actual speed and
of the car, it was extremely good in the hybrid configuration.
PM: When was the first time that you drove the R8 ?
The first time that I drove the R8 was just at the Sebring race week,
my memory is correct, because we had, actually, I can’t remember the
time I drove the R8! But anyway, we had quite limited experience, or
least I did as I came into the fold in mid to late January, and by then
they run a few tests with the R8. For me, it was more important to get
used to Audi, and the way an Audi worked, whether it was an R8 or an
was irrelevant, so I did my acclimatization , if you like, with the R8R
predominately. Then, really at Sebring got into the program with the
and then followed it all the way through from there.
PM: From a driver’s perspective, how much different did the R8 feel from the R8R ?
It was quite different, it was a little bit like the R8 we know in 2006
in comparison to the R10 TDI, it’s a different beast. The performance
changed, it’s a brand new car, and the R8 was a brand new car at that
relatively unsorted in terms of how the car liked to be worked. Also,
were early in our development of tires with
Michelin for it,
so you would go from a very comfortable and driveable car, to a much
thoroughbred racing car, an consequently, from that, you had to try to
make that car ready for the race, and that’s exactly the situation
in in 2006 now, going from the R8 to the R10 TDI.
PM: What do you think it was that made the R8 such a dominant car ?
I think there was not
one specific point on that , there were different factors at different
times of its career. Initially, I would have said it was the raw speed
of the car, and then we had the interchangeable rear ends,
speed that that could be done was quite revolutionary in sportscar
no one had ever done that, or thought of that design concept
The idea had been to either build it so heavy it doesn’t break, or have
all the mess of trying to change clusters. Audi looked at it and
that’s a bit of a difficult way to do things and made it
Thankfully, we didn’t have to actually use it that often. But whenever
we had a problem in the rear end, it was actually better to change the
whole section then to change the one part that was actually
of concern. Then we had the reliability, reliability that is
think, second to none. That car is unbelievable, to think that the car
went all of its racing life without an engine failure in a race, that’s
unbelievable, and probably never to be repeated. And the
was its adaptability, and I’ll have to say not in its first year or
but certainly later on in its life it was adaptable to every type of
every type of condition, whether it be heavy rain, cold, extremely hot,
fast circuit, slow circuit, hairpins, bumps, it came out on top, and
something you can see even today that the opposition are struggling
PM: How different was the R8 you drove in its last race in 2006 from the car you drove at Sebring in 2000 ?
Massively different. The
chassis fundamentally is the same, the aerodynamics have had to evolve
by regulation, also there was some development on the aero side at the
beginning of its life, but mostly it’s been regulation
Restrictor size was significantly reduced, so therefore we have less
We’ve got the FSI injection engine, which was a major step, because I
my last race in the 2000 series at Adelaide, in December, and then I
back in 2004, and the FSI was the biggest change at that point, and you
could feel it straightaway, better drivability, better fuel economy,
on the throttle, everything was just nicer, better and faster. The
has been increased, so therefore she's heavier than her design weight,
and there's been a big evolution in the tires as well. So we've gone
having a thoroughbred racecar that we needed to tame to a very tame
that we wanted to be a bit more of a thoroughbred again. That's just
of the way that the regulations tamed her down.
PM: When you transitioned into the diesel R10, was there anything that you had to do fundamentally different ?
do it like you do with any car, whether its a new racing car or a new
you have to learn what works in that particular situation. With the R10
TDI, with the diesel, being a V-12 with all that torque, and with the
being so early in its life, we had to sort of change our lines a little
bit, we had to change the way we applied the throttle, went over bumps,
used the extra grip level that we had, used the different weight
and things like that. To be honest, that was the same thing I did when
I got into the R8 for the first time. You just look at the
and try to make it go faster, and tailor things accordingly. Obviously,
the biggest difference is the diesel, and with the diesel you have to
the torque and power that it has more than you did with the FSI
especially with the stricter regulations we had at the end of the R8's
PM: What do you think the R8 would have been like on a track like Miller Motorsports Park ?
I think it would have
been very good on a track like this, as it was on every other
Qualifying trim, as we've seen in the last few races, we're not
able to fight for pole position. That's partly because of the
kilo, or 75 pound penalty that we have relative to the Dysons, but also
the 250 kilos, or 400 lbs relative to the Porsches. That's a
of a weight, and I think on this type of configuration of track, where
there's lots of changes of direction, stops, starts, weight's a
no question. But, as we saw in Lime Rock, come the race, we
the car within a tenth or two tenths of our qualifying pace,
others can't, and that raceability is something that's
in sportscars, and in the American LeMans series especially.
PM: You got your first shot a Miller Motorsports Park yesterday; what did you think of the track ?
First of all, I think
that Larry Miller has got to be congratulated for all that he has done
here, because it's like an oasis in the middle of a desert.
nothing here, then suddenly you come upon a very, very good facility.
quite thoughtful and ingenious in some respects, the thing I really
is the playground over here for the kids, you know, basketball courts
things like that, it's a real family place. There's the
you can see 90 to 95 percent of the track, it's very open, I think he's
thought about it from two sides, from probably what he
have liked when he was 8 years old going to a racetrack, but also from
a commercial point of view, to make it work. And so from that
of it, I'd say it's a good place. The track itself, it's
it's got 23, 24 corners, depending on how you count the little kink in
the back, and the elevation changes and the cambers, the
things make it quite difficult. It's difficult to learn as
not just because of the number of corners, but the variety of types of
corners, which makes difficult to set the car up. So I do
they've got a circuit here that can maybe suit pretty much everything,
bikes, cars, club car racing as well as professional sportscar racing
we've got here, cars that can do 200 MPH and bikes that can do 200
But I can tell you that on a motorbike, it'd be a hell of a hard track
! I think in a car it'll be tricky as well. There's
a lot of
ups and downs, hard braking and leaning in , and long
tire wear, but that's the same for everybody, and therefore you've got
to think technically as well as in a way that you've just got to attack
the circuit from a driver's point of view.
PM: Going from a short track like Lime Rock to a place like this, one thing I've heard repeatedly is that this is a hard track to learn, that you tend to get lost out there. Have you experienced that also ?
A little bit. it doesn't
take 5 minutes, you can see by the way that the lap times
, then suddenly people stagnate at a 2:30 or something, and then bang,
they gain 3 seconds. How can you gain 3 seconds,
you doing the previous lap, but it's just that it
of connects, that a series of corners all connects together, and with
corners, if you gain a tenth a corner, that's 2.3 seconds,
a lot, so if you just think of it in that term, then yes, there is a
to take in and absorb, and you can't do that in 5 or 6 laps like you
maybe with Lime Rock. But the two ends of the scale, Lime
a high commitment circuit, a bit narrow, very bumpy, track surface
and you need to approach that in an extremely aggressive
without thoughts of anything else, it's just an all-out attack, and
I think you've got a balance of attack and finesse.
PM: One final question Alan, and I'll let you go. The R8 had an amazingly long career, which may never be repeated. Do you see that kind of potential in the R10 ?
The performance speaks
for itself. We did a 45.9 in its' first ever race in qualifying, so
got the first part, when we talked about the R8, which is sheer
We've worked hard on the reliability and finishing first and third at
suggests that we're on the right track there. We also,
course of the season up to now managed to understand the car, Michelin
have worked hard with the tires and we've got a direction that we need
to go in for the rest of the season, so all the hallmarks, the DNA of
R8, is in the R10 TDI. The one thing that'll probably cut her
more than the car itself is the regulation changes by the ACO in
I certainly hope that's the case, but on the other side of it, we
the competition coming in with Peugot, and the Porsche competition this
season, and what I understand will be the future with Honda
into LMP sportscars in 2007, and that side is the thing that will push
the car to it's limits, and also push us to our limits, which is the
we're in motorsports.
PM: Alan, I'd like to wish you the best of luck this weekend, and in the future, and I thank you very much for your time.
AM: It was my pleasure, thank you.