The F1 off season usually finds fans becoming one with their couch as they sink like loose coins into the cushions while pressing their remotes control to find an episode of Top Gear they haven’t seen or some other form of racing that isn’t focused on turning left. That’s not a pretty sight for anyone to behold and usually ends with a high fever, shakes and macular degeneration.
The good news is that our favorite American GT3 team is racing in the Rolex 24 Hour race at Daytona (January 29-30) and that’s reason enough to launch yourself off the couch, get some food and libations and get ready for some racing. You’ll recall that we were elated about the return of Martin Brundle to the racing world with our Q&A here.
We follow United Autosports because they are terrific team and we’ve been following them during their maiden year in 2010. They have had terrific results and are approaching international racing the intelligent way….especially for being an American team.
United Autosports concluded a successful three-day official test at the “Roar Before the Rolex 24” Sunday in advance of the 49th running of the world famous Daytona race later this month. All four drivers, Mark Blundell (GB), Zak Brown (USA), Martin Brundle (GB) and Mark Patterson (USA), were present for the test with Blunell setting the fastest time at 1min 40.904secs, an average speed of 127.011mph.
Mark Blundell faced Daytona for the first time and was impressed, if not cautious:
“I drove in to the Speedway for the first time in my life on Thursday morning and it was an awesome sight – let’s face it the venue and race is known worldwide. I drove on ‘ovals’ in my Indycar career and I never found it to be a big deal but the banking here at Daytona is over 30 degrees. Problems can arise coming off the banking in to the infield section which makes life interesting”.
The team are leader and CEO of United Autosports, Zak Brown, was realistic on their pace but then sheer speed is not always the determining facotr in a good result during endurance racing:
“We won’t be the fastest car in the race and we didn’t spend the last three days trying to achieve putting in the ultimate one lap but our pace is nevertheless good. We also had a lot of fun, with plenty of banter from Mark [Blundell] and Martin, which is great.”
The big question was, how does Martin Brundle feel about returning to the racing seat after becoming a stalwart in the BBC commentary world for F1 races? How was his return to Daytona?
“Pulling on my race suit, putting on my helmet, and jumping in a race car again, I did feel a little anxious. It’s 10 years really since I raced professionally and so it’s natural to have self doubts initially. But once out on to the track, everything comes back to you, it’s natural – just like swimming or riding a bike, you never forget how to do it. I quickly shook off the rust and dropped back in to the groove. We progressively improved the car between us each day and my times came down. It was the first time I’d driven a DP and nothing was a big surprise to me. They don’t have much downforce and are much heavier than a Formula One car for example but I was pleasantly surprised. The last time I was here was in 1990 and the track is now in great condition in terms of the quality of the surface, kerbs and run-off areas – the entire venue looks a million dollars.”
The United Autosports crew have teamed up with the terrific team of Michael Shank racing and while this is only the second time team owner Zak Brown has raced a Daytona Prototype car, Mark Patterson will start his eighth Rolex 24 – his seventh driving a DP having finished second in 2006. The team will be driving a riley DP. It’s a Roush-Yates prepared V8 Ford 5 liter modular engine, 4 cam, 4 valve, producing over 500hp. Rear-wheel-drive. Continental Tires. Weight: 2275lbs; 5 gears, paddle-shift gearbox. The Riley Technologies MK XXII is the most successful Daytona Prototype of all time.
Still want more from the Rolex 24 and United Autosports? Good, you’re going to get it. A TV crew from Discovery Channel’s How Do They Do It? will follow the team’s exploits over the Daytona race weekend and broadcast the program this summer. It is one of the world’s most popular technology shows and is broadcast to over 150 countries (over 1.25 billion subscribers) in Asia, Australasia, Europe, North and South America plus South Africa.
If that wasn’t enough, you can join F1B’s own Andrew Middlemore as he assaults the AUTOSPORT International show because he’ll be hunting down the United Autosports team. Zak Brown and Richard Dean will take part in a Grand-Am Press Conference in Concourse Suite 25 on Thursday January 13 (11am).
Meanwhile Joe Osborne, John Bintcliffe and Jay Palmer, who make their respective débuts for United Autosports in the FIA GT3 European (Osborne) and Avon Tyres British GT Championships (Bintcliffe & Palmer) driving an Audi R8 LMS, will also be in attendance at the annual show along with fellow Briton Matt Bell, who contests his second FIA GT3 season for United Autosports and also the BGT this season.
If you haven’t become a United Austosports fan yet, you are really late to the dance. These folks are terrific people and an outstanding organization. While GT3 is not the most covered motorsport series in the world, we will keep you posted as to their progress asll year long as F1B’s adopted team for other series. Check them out here.