Audi Le Mans star Allan McNish believes this year's rule changes could make the top gas-powered cars a major threat to Audi and Peugeot's diesel prototypes.
Diesel-engined cars have dominated the Le Mans scene since Audi switched to the R10 TDI in 2006, but race organizer the Automobile Club de l'Ouest is adjusting the regulations this year and opening the door for performance balancing changes to ensure parity between gasoline and diesel cars. This has encouraged Aston Martin to develop a new gas LMP1 car, and McNish thinks it could be a very strong package under the 2011 rules.
"Looking at the straightline speed that Aston Martin had last year, they were very fast, anything going more towards them and less toward us is a fear, no question," he said.
He is encouraged by the fact that Audi has a headstart with its program, having already begun testing its new R18, whereas the latest Aston will not hit the track until the start of February.
"The one area that we've got a slight advantage is that we're out with our car already and testing," said McNish. "Le Mans seems a long way away in June but in reality it's not that far away. Aston is still to get it into the track so it's going to be a bit behind. But you can never discount the potential of that team."
McNish tipped Le Mans Series frontrunner Rebellion Racing as the other gasoline threat following its engine deal with Toyota.
"That's the package we have to wait and see," he said. "I know Toyota's capability to produce engines, it's a good one, but we'll have to wait and see when it actually hits the track."