Frustration for McNish; delight for Franchitti

While Dumfries racer Allan McNish was left frustrated when torrential rain forced the early finish to the 1000-mile Petit Le Mans race in Atlanta, Bathgate’s Marino Franchitti scored the biggest race win of his career.

The 30-year-old, who started the penultimate round of the American Le Mans Series from pole position in his LMP2 class Dyson Lola-Mazda, dominated the race to win comfortably.

“What a great result for the whole BP Dyson Mazda team,” the ecstatic Scot said today when officials stopped the race after three-and-a-half hours of torrential rainstorms.

“Of course we wished we could have gone the full race distance for the fans, but mother nature had other ideas. This is our second win of the year and it would be fantastic to end the season with a win on our home track at Laguna Seca next month.”

But while Franchitti — who was partnered by Americans Butch Leitzinger and Ben Devlin — celebrated, McNish was left kicking himself after throwing away the overall lead second before the race was red-flagged.

The Audi ace had been the fastest man in the overall LMP1 category lapping his biggest rivals, the two Peugeots, after 90 minutes on the undulating 2.54-mile road course.

But McNish — partnered by Italian Dindo Capello — saw Audi’s 10th successive win at the Atlanta circuit disappear when he spun innocuously behind the safety car while trying to warm his tyres on the exit of Turn 5.

As the light drizzle that preceded the downpour began to make the track treacherously slippery, McNish’s Audi beached itself on the kerb before he was able to rejoin the race.

But by that time the two Peugeots of eventual winner Stephane Sarrazin, and Pedro Lamy, had slipped ahead relegating the Scot to third.

Normally McNish would have had another five hours to overhaul the Peugeots, but as the rainstorms came in officials redflagged the race and the cars were parked in the pitlane. Three-and-a-half hours later, the same officials waved the chequered flag.

“Of course I’m disappointed,” McNish said afterwards. “It was a silly little mistake which at the time was no more than embarrassing and annoying; but I knew I had the time to get back ahead of the Peugeots.

“But of course, as the rainstorms set in we could all see the possibility that the race would be called early, and that’s happened. Hugely disappointed, but I guess that’s racing.”

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