United Autosports Endures Frustrating Brno

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United Autosports netted 14th and 25th plus 19th and 21st positions in the third & fourth rounds respectively of the FIA GT3 European Championship at the 3.36-mile Automotodrom Brno circuit in the Czech Republic this weekend. As we’ve mentioned before, we are keeping a close eye on the team because as an American operation based in the UK and assaulting the European battlegrounds, it is both exciting and challenging.

A rain shower moments before Race One saw the American-owned, British-based team gamble on a different tire strategy for its brace of Audi R8 LMS sports cars. While the wet-tire shod #22 Audi of Michael Guasch/Mark Patterson prospered, the race for the sister #22 R8 LMS of Matthew Bell/Zak Brown was over almost before it had started when a further rain shower moments into the race put paid to the team’s gamble to start on “slick” dry weather tires.

Twenty-four hours later in Race Two the weather conditions had improved but it ended, in many ways, as frustratingly for the United Autosports team which endured a “character building” weekend. Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports said:

“With a car in each half of the grid for Race One and with the weather and track conditions like they were, we opted for a split tire strategy. But following another brief rain shower minutes in to the race, it meant our best-placed starting car was on the wrong option [tires] and the car at the back was on the correct one. Mike, who did brilliantly well in the difficult opening laps, and Mark, both did a fantastic jobs, to make up nine places on their grid position. Obviously the #23 Audi’s race was compromised after the second rain shower and Matt had to pit for ‘wets’.

“Matt set some exceptionally good lap times once the #23 Audi had been remedied of a technical glitch which wasn’t caused by anything directly relating to anything the United Autosports team had done wrong which was also the case with regards the starting grid infringement. Michael and Mark, and an unwell Zak, each did a sterling job in difficult circumstances. We’ll move on and now focus on Jarama next month.”

It was a weekend of ill weather and ill health for driver Zak Brown as he struggled to bring the car home safe for the second race:

“My tires were, not surprisingly well “rooted” by the end of the opening race with the track having continued to dry. I just wanted to stay out of big trouble and bring the Audi home unscathed ready for the second race which would hopefully be dictated by us as opposed to Mother Nature.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling too good when I got in the car at the start and after the race now I feel even worse which has nothing to do with the bad cold and high temperature I’m running. It was an uneventful stint for me with much of it behind a Safety Car. Hugely frustrating weekend taking everything in to account.”

Teammate Matthew Bell fared no better as they gambled on starting the race on slicks. The age old guessing game of “what will the weatherl do” has caught out more than one F1 team and that notion is certainly continued in sports cars:

“It was a gamble to start Race One on ‘slicks’ and as it happened it didn’t work out. It was the first time I’d ever driven the Audi in wet conditions and the positive I took away from what was a very disappointing outcome was that I was as competitive in terms of times with the leaders when I was actually on ‘wets’.

“Having taken over from Zak I then almost immediately had to stop to serve a penalty then pitted again with a transmission issue. After that I just told myself to stay calm and not get angry about these situations and to circulate as fast as I possibly could. Ultimately I turned in some respectable times and that’s all I could do in these circumstances.”

It’s hard to be down about the weekend as the team is still cutting its teeth on the new R8 program and the GT3 series. The challenges of starting a team in America, being based int he UK and battling on European soil is no easy task and as the new teams in F1 can tell you, there is never enough time, money or pace. That hasn’t discouraged United Autosports from focusing on the next race and doing their best to continue developing. John Della Penna (ARG), Partner & Sporting Director of United Autosports explains:

“It’s been a challenging and tough weekend although we can take away some seeds of goodness. We continue to learn about the Audi R8 LMS but our drivers, not surprisingly, still lack experience of the car and time behind the wheel. We opened up some self-inflicted wounds too by the team’s general lack of experience in this championship so the team will go away having learnt valuable lessons so that we come back more polished.”

Matthew Bell (GB). Lives: Barningham nr Richmond, North Yorkshire, England:

“It was a gamble to start Race One on ‘slicks’ and as it happened it didn’t work out. It was the first time I’d ever driven the Audi in wet conditions and the positive I took away from what was a very disappointing outcome was that I was as competitive in terms of times with the leaders when I was actually on ‘wets’.

“Having taken over from Zak I then almost immediately had to stop to serve a penalty then pitted again with a transmission issue. After that I just told myself to stay calm and not get angry about these situations and to circulate as fast as I possibly could. Ultimately I turned in some respectable times and that’s all I could do in these circumstances.”

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