24h Le Mans
09/01/2020 - 12:01

McNish, winner of the Race of a Thousand Years in Australia

On 31 December 2000 in Adelaide, Australia, three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Allan McNish won the the extraordinary Race of a Thousand Years at the wheel of an Audi R8 in its crocodile livery. The British driver from Scotland, teammates with Dindo Capello, looks back on the special race and underscores Australians' enthusiasm for endurance racing ahead of the Asian Le Mans Series round this weekend at The Bend circuit.
McNish, winner of the Race of a Thousand Years in Australia

"Almost 20 years now already! Time flies!" exclaimed 50-year-old Allan McNish on 29 December 2019 remembering the final race of the American Le Mans Series, the Race of a Thousand Years, on 31 December 2000 in Adelaide, Australia that he took the start in thanks to Don Panoz. "The circumstances were unique. We made the trip on 23 December and celebrated Christmas as it was 31°C, which for a Scot is hard to believe. The whole city was buzzing because of the special event. The atmosphere at the circuit was pretty laid back, kind of like it is at Sebring. Dindo (Capello, Ed.) and I shared an Audi R8 with a special crocodile livery. I even had a matching helmet made. That race is to this day one of my fondest memories."

"Dindo and I clinched pole position, clocked the fastest in-race lap and won with our crocodile car. It was Audi's first win in the American Le Mans Series. We took our places on the podium shortly after 22:30, then did interviews and then it was the new year 2001. It was really strange!" The finish was as joyous as the start had been catastrophic for the Scottish driver. "I injured myself, hurting my back removing my kilt after a photo session (photo below, Ed.) before the race. I had to go to the hospital on my birthday. I was not allowed to move if I had any hope of taking the start in the race. So, I didn't do the free practice or qualifying sessions. I had to do at least two laps in the car before the start. There was a moment when we thought about using an Audi driver from Supercar in Australia, but he was way too tall. In the end, the more time I spent in the car, the less my back hurt. Driver changes can be challenging. So we proceeded with me doing the race and staying in the R8 for the final stint. I will remember that race forever. I have to say, the circuit was really good for our prototypes and for endurance racing. It was wide enough to overtake, but bumpy and if you made a mistake overtaking you could easily end up in the wall. You really had to work for a good lap time. I really enjoyed that race."

The first Asian Le Mans Series in 2020 wil take place in Australia on Sunday 12 January at The Bend. 

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