Allan McNish has warned his Peugeot rivals that Audi is prepared to fight hard to retain its unbroken chain of victories with turbo-diesel power at Le Mans.
While the Scot admits that the three-year-old Peugeot 908 Hdi FAP has a pace advantage over the new R15 TDI, he believes that the gap between the two cars is smaller than in previous years and is seeking to exploit the pressure the French team is under to win its home event.
"There is definitely a bit more to come from the car," said McNish. "We have always been better in race trim than in qualifying.
"We run very close to our race trim and that has been a strength of Audi for a long period of time.
"I think as drivers we have got the capability to keep it up there at 99 percent for 100 percent of the time in every condition. And the adaptability is still a very big strength.
"It's a tough battle, there's no question, but we are in the ballpark," he added. "We were in the ballpark from a much further distance behind last year and the fact that Peugeot had to put two sets of tyres on at the end of the night to try and grab pole means that they are obviously looking over the shoulder at us.
"And with all the various stuff that's active in the press means that they're nervous and rightly so. Because you have to take a team and a driver line-up like we have got in all three cars seriously. We take them seriously. But the race is on."
McNish added that he believed the Peugeots could have gone even quicker than the 3m22.888s pole time, set by Stephane Sarrazin, but that inter-team rivalry had intervened and could do so again in the race.
"The Peugeot has pace in hand," said the two-time Le Mans winner. "Before my lap Franck Montagny had done two red sectors, and interestingly got held up by his teammate [Pedro Lamy]. Then he brake-tested him!
"So life in the Peugeot camp might be very fast in the car, but not necessarily calm out of it. They are fighting their own little battles. That is quite humorous from our point of view when you stand there and watch it.
"But the two red sectors, and the fact that he got held up and still did a 3m26s – I calculated they are capable of 21s. Which is one and half to 1.7s quicker than us, which is roughly where I think it probably is.
"That's further away than I was hoping but it is a still a lot closer than it was last year."