Many happy returns to Allan McNish, who turns 40 today!
While the little Scot is more famous for being a three-time American Le Mans Series Champion (2000, 2006-7), two-time Le Mans 24 Hour winner (1998 and 2008) and three-time Sebring 12 Hours winner (2004, 2006 and 2009), he has actually had a lengthy F1 association.
A Formula Vauxhall Lotus champion and British Formula 3 runner-up, McNish earned test driving roles with McLaren and Benetton in the early 1990s. He also tested the disastrous Mastercard Lola in 1997 before its short-lived foray into F1.
McNish’s sportscar career began in 1996 with Porsche, and took his first Le Mans 24 Hour win with the marque two years later.
McNish’s determination finally secured him another F1 role with Toyota in 2001, when the team required an experienced development driver in the lead-up to their 2002 F1 debut. His efforts were rewarded with a place on the grid at the 2002 Australian GP. But the season was a disaster for the Scot, who was the sole rookie of the four to start the season (Mark Webber, Felipe Massa and Takuma Sato being the others) who would not finish in the top-six that season. McNish nearly mirrored the Australian GP point-scoring efforts of his team-mate Mika Salo at the Malaysian GP, where a superb drive was thwarted by a pitlane blunder from his pit crew. Both drivers were sacked at season’s end, but not before McNish suffered a massive accident at the 130R corner at Suzuka (below).
His association with Toyota now finished, McNish was Renault’s test driver for the 2003 season, and also dabbled in a little work with ITV. He returned to his true home of sportscars, and teamed up with the Audi factory team with incredible success ever since.