There are many drivers during the time I’ve been watching motorsport that could lay claim to being the best. I am a big fan of all open-wheel motor racing, but the driver I feel is the best of my generation has made his name in recent years racing with a roof over his head in the World Endurance Championship – Allan McNish.
In my opinion McNish has been one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. He did not get the plaudits like the Lewis Hamilton’s or Jenson Button’s do in Formula 1, but did his job on track in a professional and speedy manner that brought him regular success and race victories, including three outright wins at the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
He did race in Formula 1 briefly, for Toyota in their first year in the sport in 2002, but the car was not up to scratch and the Scotsman failed to score points, a seventh place in the Malaysian Grand Prix his best result. He had been linked with F1 much earlier than that however, his performances in the early days of his career (circa 1990-1992) in F3000 attracted the attention of both Benetton and McLaren, and he tested for both. Neither lead to a race drive however, and he had to resort to sports car racing to continue his career.
His first venture into sports cars was with Porsche in 1997, though it ended with early retirement. However his first Le Mans victory followed the following year, teaming up with Frenchmen Laurent Aïello and Stéphane Ortelli. However it was his move to Audi that made the man.
A second Le Mans win was achieved in 2008 with Danish Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen and Italian Rinaldo Capello, with a third this year, again with Kristensen and with Frenchman Loic Duval. He has also finished the great race second on two more occasions, and third four more times. He also won the American Le Mans Series twice in 2006 and 2007, having won multiple races over the years. 2007 saw him win nine races out of twelve, and finished second the other three times!
McNish retires this year having won Le Mans AND the World Endurance Championship alongside Kristensen and Duval. He bows out at the top of his game, just like another Scotsman – Jackie Stewart – did in Formula 1 at the end of 1973.
In my opinion, Allan McNish is the best driver of my generation. He has won many races in a glittering career, and many a title too. Finishing on the podium at Le Mans an amazing nine times is a fantastic achievement. He also goes out with the respect of everyone he’s worked for and raced against, and is a true gentleman. The world of sports car racing will be a poorer place without him.
The Autosport International Show runs from the 9th-12th of January 2014 from the NEC in Birmingham. For more information and to book tickets, visit http://www.autosportinternational.com/ now!