History could be made Saturday in Shanghai, as Audi’s Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval look to wrap up the Drivers’ World Championship in the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Following a season that has seen them claim three victories in six races, including the double points-paying 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Audi Sport trio will need a fourth place finish or better in this weekend’s Six Hours of Shanghai to take the title with one race still to go.
“I’m not interested in any title permutations. My focus remains as it always is, to win the race,” said McNish. “Tom, Loïc and I are in a good [championship] position but I have been in motorsport long enough to know that it is never over until it’s over and so we’ll continue with our normal focus in Shanghai.”
While the title has been in the favor of the No. 2 car since their victory in the season-opener at Silverstone, Audi’s No. 1 R18 e-tron quattro of defending champions Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler took a turn for the worse last month in Fuji, having recorded a fourth place finish in class in the rain-shortened race.
As a result, McNish, Kristensen and Duval hold a 40.75-point lead over their teammates, the only other drivers who remain in title contention.
“We’d like to clinch the first WEC victory of the brand in the largest market,” Kristensen added. “And we all know that the race will be about a possible early decision in the drivers World Championship after Audi has already won the title in the manufacturers classification.”
With four factory cars entered for Shanghai, plus the lone LMP1 Privateer entry from Rebellion Racing, it will likely take a problem for the No. 2 Audi in order to deny their championship being sewn up early.
McNish is hopeful of having improved pace this weekend compared to last year’s event in China, which went the way of Toyota’s Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre.
“Our R18 didn’t really have the competitiveness we needed there in 2012 but the work Audi Sport did over the winter with the aerodynamics, the hybrid system and tires has put us ahead of our rivals,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to returning to Shanghai as it was a circuit I enjoyed last year. It’s not necessarily one of my favorite circuits on the WEC calendar and while there are not that many fast corners, a driver can really ‘throw’ the car into them.
“Tom and I were fast there last year and we finished second. We were very close to pole-position just behind the Toyota and I think that it’s clear for us we go there to try and win.”