Johnny Herbert offers words of wisdom to Allan McNish for his Le Mans 24-hour tilt

Former Le Mans winner Johnny Herbert believes leading Britons Allan McNish and Anthony Davidson have "a good shot" at success in this weekend's blue-riband Le Mans race - if they can avoid the pitfalls of 24-hour racing.

Audi ace McNish and Peugeot driver Davidson will line up fifth and sixth on the grid when the 79th running of the world's greatest sportscar race gets under way this afternoon.

The battle between the diesel-powered Audis and Peugeots looks set to be close, with the top six cars covered by barely half a second in final qualifying.So McNish and Davidson's victory hopes may come down to who best handles the battle with slower traffic around the 8.469 mile Circuit de la Sarthe.

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"They have a good chance," said Herbert. "Their initial challenge will be to stay in touch with the other cars around them - and to have the consistency you need at Le Mans.

"So much can happen during the race and someone will get the breaks. During the night things can sometimes twist round the other way and the gap can close very quickly.

"You need to be very smart when it comes to dealing with traffic.

"You don't want to catch the slower guys in places where you might have to wait to make a move, but you also don't want to be too aggressive and end up having an accident that costs you time or puts you out of the race.

"The Audis and Peugeots are evenly matched so it's going to be fascinating to watch, it will be a cat and mouse battle as their pace is similar. It will be down to who can get the best out of it and get the best out of their relationship with the other guys in their team. You have three guys in a car, unlike in Formula 1, and how you gel together and the motivation you have together is very important."

This year marks 20 years since Herbert tasted victory at Le Mans as he helped Mazda become the first, and so far only, Japanese manufacturer to win the race. Herbert, who shared with Bertrand Gachot and Volker Weidler, brought their 787B over the line to claim the win and describes it as being right up there with his three Formula 1 wins in his list of achievements.

"It was very, very special," he said. "The whole deal from having the team photo before the race and scrutineering early in the week. I remember we had a weight reduction that helped us but we always knew the Mazda would be quick, but we felt the Sauber Mercedes may be that bit quicker.

"We knew we had to push as hard as we could and you could say that their problems came about because they were having to push to match us.

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"Grand Prix wins are the ultimate for any driver but Le Mans is still incredibly prestigious for manufacturers and drivers, and it is right up there with those F1 wins."Should two-time winner McNish or Davidson taste the joy of victory Herbert hopes they will be able to savour the moment on the podium, something he was denied in 1991 as a lack of sleep left him too exhausted to take in the acclaim.

"I went into it in completely the wrong way," he said. "I got up at 8am for a 4pm start and after my first stints I went to sleep at around 1am. I had been up for way too long, I had no rest and it harmed my chances of getting through it.

" I was due to hand the car over at the final stop but I stayed in and the heat got the better of me. When I crossed the line I relaxed and that was when it really hit me.

"I was ready to collapse and I don't think I'd have got through the podium ceremony, it was a shame to miss it but at the same time it doesn't diminish the achievement."