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MCNISH: Shanghai Debrief

Allan McNish files his latest exclusive column after locking up the WEC title…

Photo: Audi Motorsport

Photo: Audi Motorsport

In many ways it was a strange weekend. Firstly because coming to Shanghai, we knew Toyota would be very strong. They were quick there last year.

But my second timed lap of the whole weekend, at 8:05 a.m. on Friday morning, turned out to be the quickest lap of the weekend by a few tenths.

That was quite insane, really, considering your second lap on a track you haven’t been to in a year and a track that was very dirty, was quicker than anybody’s qualifying lap.

The track itself changed quite a lot. It had a dirty, greasy feel to it. When it did clean up, it just got slower and slower, which was very abnormal.

It was the same for everybody. Everyone was struggling and complaining about traction problems and trying to get the right tire and balance on the tire. That seemed to be key for the whole weekend.

For us, the key for the whole weekend was to try and nail the World Championship. We knew going into it that we had to finish fourth, if the sister car won. That was really the big picture goal.

You go there to win the race because it ultimately keeps everyone’s focus on the job at hand and I think you’ve got to have that. However, after qualifying, we struggled a wee bit with the setup and the pace, to be honest.

First, it was a case of not taking any stupid risks and try and get the championship wrapped up with one race to go.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so risk-adversed in my entire career. I was probably not within six feet of any car through the whole race.

Normally, I’m reasonably decisive at the start. I think most people are probably aware of that!

But this time, I was very happy just to slot in behind and watch the excitement as Andre [Lotterer] and Anthony Davidson scrapped it out trying to go after Alex [Wurz], who made a bit of an escape at the beginning.

For us, it was about being clean and tidy. Clean, traffic-free laps were fast enough. But when we came to the traffic, we were all very careful. Especially for Loic, because a GT car spun in front of him and he had to take to the escape road out to the fast Turn 13.

The only thing Tom and I saw on the TV screen was a spinning GT car and then our R18 flying straight off, which had our hearts in our months for a little bit.

But we were able to bring it home in third place, which gave us the title we fought so hard for the whole season.

For me, crossing the line, you knew it was done and dusted. The slowing down lap, when I was in the car, there were radio messages back and forth and I had another two minutes until I got back to the pits, with just myself and my thoughts.

It was quite a moment because you reflect on quite a few things. How long it’s taken to achieve the goal. How hard it’s been. All the good times all the way through.

From my point of view, we started this fight, Tom and I especially, at the race in China last year. When Loic came on board, we worked really hard to make sure that he fitted into the team well.

I think we achieved a good result right out of the box at Silverstone, which was very good, because for me, the Tourist Trophy is the oldest trophy in British motorsport and it’s only been given on the odd occasion.

To be able to put my name on that particular trophy, to go along with the Segrave, the other very traditional one, and one of only two people to have won both of them, and to go onto have a third Le Mans victory and wrap it up with a world title, is just unbelievable.

It’s a story that dreams are made of but that’s what this year was about.

But it was only attained through a lot of hard work, a lot of effort, a lot of clear thought processes, a very consistent car crew with our engineers and great work from the mechanics who were quickest at the stops, all the time. They were really mega.

Obviously you need a good car underneath you and that’s where Audi came into their own. We had a strong challenge from Toyota last year but over the winter, Audi worked really, really hard. There were great aerodynamic improvements and they worked hard with Michelin to make sure we got the best out of our tires.

On that side of things, it gave us a platform that us three drivers could go forward and take the fight to the World Championship.

I’ve been asked if the world title is bigger than some of the other things I’ve won, like Le Mans or the American Le Mans Series. In some ways, the ALMS back in 2000’s was a defacto World Championship. It certainly was in ’06 and ’07 when we did it and Dindo and I won in that.

It was because everybody was there. You had to beat the best of the best. Now the best of the best are in the WEC. But the thing is that it’s got “World Champion” next to your name and that’s what every driver tries to achieve for and every manufacturer looks for.

In 2013, the wee boy from Dumfries, Scotland has done it.

I’m very proud of it. It came on what would have been the 60th birthday of David Leslie, the guy who started me off in karting and car racing, who unfortunately is no longer with us.

I think it’s pretty poignant that I managed to wrap it up on that particular day.

Allan McNish (@allanmcnish) is a three-time Le Mans winner and 2013 FIA World Endurance champion, driving for Audi Sport Team Joest. The rapid Scot is also a former American Le Mans Series champion.

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