United Autosport makes solid race début

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If you are, like me, following the new United Autosports team and their 2010 Audi R8 V10, then this is great news.

Contesting the opening two races of the Avon Tires British GT Championship at Oulton Park (Cheshire, England) and despite three of its four drivers having never previously raced on the 2.692-mile “International” circuit, United Autosports scored two fourth placings, a fifth and an eighth to mark a successful British series début of the mid-engined R8 LMS despite having to run 70kg ballast and an additional time penalty in both races for the #23 Audi.

Just three months after the formation of United Autosports and less than one month since the American-owned, British-based team took delivery of its 2010-specification Audi R8 LMS sports cars, the Zak Brown and Richard Dean led outfit made a promising race début today (Easter Monday, April 5). Here are the results:

Race 1
Qualifying: 3rd #23 Brown, 1m 40.381s; 4th #22 Guasch, 1m 40.533s. Weather: Dry/Cloudy.
Race Result: 4th (#23); 8th (#22). Weather: Dry/Cloudy.
Denied a front row start in the dying moments of qualifying on Saturday (April 3), Zak Brown together with the “sister” Audi R8 LMS of Michael Guasch, started the one-hour race from the second row of the 18-car grid.

Both ran consistently inside the top-six before making their compulsory pit-stops for driver changes at mid-distance – Brown pitting two laps earlier than Guasch who ran as high as second during the pit-stop phase for three laps.

Richard Dean resumed 10th, the 1998 British GT champion overtaking team-mate Mark Patterson for eighth place with 20mins to run, before claiming fourth place on the 36th and last lap with ex-Grand Am racer Patterson a comfortable eighth.

Race 2
Qualifying: 5th #23 Dean, 1m 38.340s; 11th #22 Patterson, 1m 41.004s. Weather: Dry/Cloudy.
Race Result: 4th (#23); 5th (#22). Weather: Dry/Cloudy.
Dean moved up one place at the start to fourth and embarked on a dice for third place for the entire 35-minute duration of his opening stint with Patterson settling in ninth position.

Brown resumed sixth after the pit-stop on 35mins with Guasch, now at the helm of #22, seventh with 15mins to run. Both Audi R8 LMS sports cars were charging in the closing stages and were up to fourth (#23) and sixth (#22) – Guasch snatching fifth three laps from the finish. Brown was awarded the Sunoco Driver of the Day Award.

#22 Molecule / Cerutti – Audi R8 LMS
Michael Guasch (USA). Lives: Walnut Creek, California, USA:
“The immediate aggressiveness caught me out at the start of Race One, my first ever race outside of single-seaters, with a lot of banging of bodywork which cost me a couple of positions. I chased after Zak who was one place ahead of me in fifth position for much of my stint. In the second race I took over from Mark and just drove the wheels off the Audi and it responded beautifully. I was setting consistently quick times and just picked off the places. I think some drivers were tiring but I’ve been training real hard.”

Mark Patterson (USA). Lives Bronxville, New York State, USA:
“It took me a while to get into a rhythm in the opening race but ultimately I got down to some decent times on what is a very, very challenging track which my co-driver Michael and I, plus Zak in the #23 Audi, are racing on for the first time. I felt I never really managed to conquer certain parts of Oulton, especially Cascades, but the confidence will come and the times will drop I’m certain of that. Today’s races have been a very good experience and one that I can build on.”

#23 Remington – Audi R8 LMS
Zak Brown (USA). Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA:
“We achieved at Oulton Park exactly what we set out to do. To score four top-eights is awesome and to end the day with both cars finishing in the top-five is stunning. This weekend was all about the team further gelling together in readiness for the start of the FIA GT3 Euro series which begins next month. For the drivers and engineers to learn more about the Audi R8 LMS, and as importantly, each other and of course, for the mechanics to get more hands-on time with the cars in a race environment. Everyone involved at United Autosports have worked incredibly hard in recent weeks to get us on the grid for these races. I’m thrilled with what we’ve already achieved in such a short space of time in what is a massive learning curve for us all.”

Richard Dean (GB). Lives: Leeds, England:
“The organizers handed a 30-seconds ‘penalty’ to our #23 Audi for both races because it’s felt that Zak and I had a ‘performance advantage’ due to our experience. Take that away and we’d have been second, rather than fourth, in both races. The British series runs on Avon tires, as opposed to Michelins in the FIA series, and considering the extra 70kg ballast and the challenge I had to mount in the closing stages of Race One to get past two Ferraris, twice as it turned out after overshooting the chicane, the tires held up very well.

“I was unable to get past the Ferrari into third place in Race Two which was frustrating. That was down to me not qualifying as well as I should have otherwise I think Zak would have won. But both of our cars finished very strongly. There are elements we need to work on but nothing major which is very pleasing. The logistics of now leaving Oulton Park on a Bank Holiday, which normally means horrendous traffic delays, to start a 700-mile journey to Dijon for the FIA test and arrive by Tuesday afternoon, is just another problem we need to solve.”

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