We asked the three times Le Mans 24hrs winner and Audi Motorsport director of co-ordination, Allan McNish, how his team aims to beat Porsche, and counter the threat from Toyota.

Although Audi hasn’t come out in pole position for the 2016 24-hour endurance race – its cars lie behind just behind rivals Porsche and Toyota – that doesn’t faze Allan McNish.

“At Le Mans it’s often the case that you don’t really get a sniff of who’s fastest in qualifying. In fact, I’ve seen it here very often that you don’t understand where everything lies until the race starts,” he explained.

“We’ve got a car the drivers are happy with, it’s fast and balanced, and something they can work with. That’s a really important thing because it means we’re in the right ‘working window’ as they say.”

McNish believes there are three elements to victory at Le Mans: speed, pit work and reliability, and it’s that last area every team struggled with at Spa.

“I hope we’re not the ones who pick up something, although I doubt very much that we’ll finish the race without having at least one of our LMP1Hs having a technical issue that brings it into the pits – but that’s Le Mans,” he shrugged.

So how is Audi going to get victory back from Porsche? “By being fast, and being reliable,” is the emphatic answer.

According to McNish, Toyota is a different prospect. Like Audi, Toyota has changed its philosophy over the winter while, in contrast, Porsche has evolved its car.

“Both Audi and Toyota have moved away from different storage systems to the battery systems we’re running now,” he explained.

“This may sound like a small change, but in terms of the packaging for the car it’s very different – working with the battery is different from working with the flywheel for us, and for Toyota it’s different from working with a super capacitator.

“So we’re both working towards gaining more understanding and experience in our cars.”

Toyota is still gunning for its first Le Mans victory. Having driven for them back in 1999, McNish knows how important that is to them. “However, between now and then Audi has a good success record, and we intend to maintain it,” he stressed.  

“In the WEC, Toyota will be hard to beat for sure because their car will adapt and suit that style of circuit. But right now all eyes are focussed on Le Mans. And it should be a good fight,” he concluded.  

Find out why Audi and Porsche scaled back their 2016 Le Mans plans

Claire Evans