Allan McNish of Scotland will drive the new Audi R18 TDI as he competes in the second round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Spa in Belgium on May 7, 2011, Saturday. This event will serve as the vehicle model’s important race début. The Scotsman will line up with regular co-drivers Dindo Capello of Italy and Tom Kristensen of Denmark in the diesel-engined R18 Coupé around the 4.35-mile Spa-Francorchamps track for the 1,000km race.
The Spa race will be the first and only competition for the R18 TDI before the Le Mans 24 Hours, which will be held on June 11 to 12, 2011. This means that the Audi Sport will have the approximately six-hour competition in the Ardennes region as a full, three-car “dress rehearsal” for the prominent French race.
McNish, who finished third in a related race in Belgium a year ago, stated that it is going to be essentially two races in one considering that he will be looking on the Spa race, claiming as many points as possible towards the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, while visualizing the bigger picture, which is the Le Mans 24 Hours.
He also added that the Spa competition will help them learn more about the new Audi R18 TD although it has been tested at Le Mans recently. The 20-minute qualifying session on Friday afternoon will allow everyone to witness the true performance of all the new vehicles since it is going to be the first event where the cars are on the same playing field at the same time. McNish also narrated that he, Capello and Kristensen “were very close at Spa last year in the R15 TDI,” which they ran in a Le Mans track set-up.
Around 60 cars have been confirmed for the prestigious 1000km of Spa Francorchamps on May 7, including the debuting Audi R18 TDI driven by Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello. The seven-race Intercontinental Le Mans Cup will have its final event at the 6 Hours of Zhuzhai in China November 12, 2011. Incindetally, McNish and Kristensen finished second in the 2010 version of the six-hour race.
McNish remarked that they at Audi Sport have been looking forward to the 1000km of Spa Francorchamps this year because it will mark the race debut of the new Audi R18 TDI. He quipped that judging from the Le Mans test day, the competition is very fierce. On the other hand, Aston Martin Racing has decided not to participate in the 1000km of Spa Francorchamps to focus on the AMR-One testing and development program.
Aston Martin's AMR-One prototype – powered by a new turbo-charged direct injection 2.0 liter straight-six engine – suffered some issues during the Le Mans test, particularly with the engine plasma cylinder lining. However, it is notable that the AMR-One project is still in its early stages, with its three-year plan just commenced in September 2010.
David Richards, Aston Martin Racing Chairman, remarked while they could take part in the Spa 1000km race, this event will result to an agenda that would not allow them to achieve their goals. He noted that Aston Martin Racing has to complete its testing -- including engine, aero and long distance tests -- at its own pace.