The American Le Mans Series rolled in to the Monterey Peninsula to conclude what has been the most politically contentious yet most competitive season in the series' history. The lighter, more nimble LMP2 Porsche RS Spyders have had the measure of the Audi R10 TDIs on most of the shorter American circuits. This should not come as any surprise, as the LMP1-category Audi was built for Le Mans and not a street course like Long Beach. It made for some incredible close racing between the Penske Porsche Panzers and the Audi diesel brigade. Laguna Seca should have been a Porsche parade, but the will of Allan McNish and Dindo Capello aboard their Audi R10 TDI changed all that. From his fifth spot on the grid, McNish reeled in the Porsches after half a dozen laps and Capello completed the magical mystery tour at the four-hour mark by a margin of 0.410 seconds over the #7 Porsche. Usually, end-of-season affairs are anti-climatic; not so with Laguna Seca's race-into-darkness approach. The sight of the lead cars, lights ablaze, working through traffic on this twisty California circuit was intense, over the top and emotional.
Dindo Capello: A Quick Look Back
Interview by Kerry Morse
EC: Both Petit Le Mans and Laguna Seca were decided in your favor by less than a second after hours of racing. Have you ever experienced anything like this before as a driver?
DC: It has happened few times in my career, especially when I was driving a single-seater or a touring car. The big difference is that I had never fought for one hour until the end of the race always against the same car and same driver. To finish that way for two straight races was something.
EC: You have a great deal of experience at Road Atlanta running in the darkness. Laguna Seca has only recently added this part of racing in to the dusk. How difficult is it to make that transition on a track that has very few lights?
DC: It's important to be in the car during the transition. It would be much more difficult to jump in the car when it's already dark. Even if you know the track well, it's not easy to quickly find some reference point if you have to start in the dark. You need some laps [to adjust], which costs time, and if you are fighting with a driver who was already in the car during the transition, it is that much more difficult. Experience helps make the learning process shorter.
EC: Compared to the R8, the R10 seems to be highly sensitive to grip issues. On one stint with one set of tires, you seem to have grip, and then after a tire change, low grip and understeer. Is this unique to the diesel and its torque or is the R10 just a difficult car to set up to your liking?
DC: Sometimes I was thinking the problem was due the difficulties to set up the R10 TDI compared to the R8, but then I have seen that Porsche and other cars gain and lose performance during the race like we do. That makes me think the cause is the very small working window with the new generation Michelin tires compared to the past. It is a better performance tire, but more difficult to choose the right compound for any condition.
EC: You and McNish have grown together as a driving pair and the last two races it seems to make no difference as to who starts and who finishes a race. To what do you attribute this? Are there other teams with this sort of chemistry?
DC: To be honest, we never plan on who has to start and who has to finish. We just decide who will qualify for the race and after that we follow a very easy procedure. We are lucky that we are both good enough to drive on almost all the tracks without choosing which circuits would be the best for Allan or for me. We just follow our rule: one race each.
EC: What are your top five memorable moments from the 2007 season?
DC: I look at everything. So, for me, it would be the bad crash in Sebring during night practice, then the unexpected victory at St. Petersburg. Of course, the great performance and the huge disappointment of our team at Le Mans while leading so easily. The last would be both the win at Petit Le Mans and, of course, atLaguna Seca.
Allan Mcnish On The Win At Laguna Seca And The Championship Season
Interview by Kerry Morse
EC: You made an interesting comment after the race, that it's times like this that make you really pleased to be part of this sport. Could you go deeper into this?
AM: We have had very hard and close-fought races this year that were won or lost by less than a second. They required everyone in the team to pull out all the stops to have any chance of success. And this year we really stretched ourselves week in and week out. Also, at Laguna, to see the Audi Sport NA mechanics immediately being congratulated by the Penske boys was a reminder that there still is respect and sportsmanship in racing. That can often be forgotten.
EC: Audi has, at best, had an up and down season in the ALMS. Both the number one and number two cars have had their share of misfortune along with success, the number two at Sebring and you and Capello aboard number one at Petit Le Mans. Compared to 2006, this season was much more difficult. Any other reflections on the 2007 season?
AM: I said at the end of '06 it would be hard to repeat that success and [in '07] with the new generation LMP2s, with their top-notch driver and team line-ups, it was certainly true. At Salt Lake, for example, we were three seconds from pole, but salvaged a close second place. I am quite pleased with my overall performance and I think the last two races showed our mettle. We were sometimes down, but never out.
EC: In most teams, driver pairings are based on how each works with one another as well as outright speed. At the very best, it seems that you and Capello are interchangeable, as shown in the last two races. Is that something you both work on, or is it just good chemistry? Also, you've had a number of teammates over your career in motorsport. Where does Capello rate?
AM: We were initially put together with no knowledge of each other except by reputation. I quickly found Capello was fast and easy to work with. We had similar driving styles and, through 2000, built up trust and friendship. Since then, he has become very good technically and I think your comments are correct, we are interchangeable, which gives the team more strategy options. I have had a few good teammates to say the least, but I think our success speaks for itself.
EC: How about a McNish 'Top Five' moments from the 2007 season?
AM: Qualifying in Houston, the last stint in Salt Lake City, qualifying in Road America, the last stint in Petit and all of Laguna Seca. Thanks for not asking about the least memorable.
EC: These days, the time off between the end of one season and the start of another is a matter of days. When does the next season start in earnest for you-and I assume that will be with Audi once again?
AM: Work for 2008 started before 2007 finished, so it's never-ending. I'm trying to get two weeks in December to finally rest. As for you Kerry, you always assume too much. I'll let you know. Vorsprung Durch Technik.