Audi's challenge to Peugeot was hampered by the first safety car period of this year's Le Mans 24 Hours in the first hour.
Nigel Mansell crashed the Beechdean Ginetta-Zytek on the run from Mulsanne corner to Indianapolis, causing a full-course yellow. The accident required the 1992 F1 World Champion to be extracted from the car and taken away by ambulance to the medical center. However, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest subsequently issued a statement indicating that the 56-year-old Mansell was "fine" after receiving "a bump on the head."
The three safety cars were deployed in response to the accident, with one of them coming out between the four leading Peugeots and the rest of the frontrunners.
The three works Audi R15s are now more than two minutes behind the Peugeots, and were lapping around 1.5 seconds per lap slower than the 908s before the caution. Audi Motorsport boss Wolfgang Ullrich is frustrated by the situation, but concedes it is just part of racing at Le Mans.
"The safety car came out exactly in front of Allan [McNish], but this is what happens if there are three safety cars around the lap," he said. "For sure it is bad luck -- it's always not so nice if the race starts with an accident. But it's part of the game and everybody has to cope with it. Now there will be a distance of at least one minute, but we will try to catch up."
Driver Dindo Capello felt that being caught behind a GT car when the yellow was called proved costly for McNish.
"I think it was the inexperience of the driver in front of Allan," Capello said. "He was about 50kph slower than he ought to be. Allan was shouting down the radio about it."
The Italian was also frustrated with the safety car format.
"I don't like this system," he said. "Obviously it's a long circuit, but when you have three safety cars all traveling at the same speed it's easy to get into a situation like this. It's just bad luck ,really."
Ullrich also admitted that the difference on pace between the Peugeots and Audis is as he expected.
"This is about what we thought it would be," he added." We will keep on pushing -- I think we can go very consistently at that speed. If it gets a little warmer, maybe that will help us."