· After races in Spain and France, “star-studded” driver line-up to test at Spa
· Independence Day Celebrations On Hold for American team at Paul Ricard
The United Autosports team heads directly to Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) for an “official” 24 Hour race Test Day on Wednesday (July 7) after contesting the latest FIA GT3 European Championship races in France this weekend (July 3-4).
Having posted 13th and 17th places in the opening one-hour race at Paul Ricard on Saturday, there was to be no Independence Day celebration for the American team the following day when the #22 Audi salvaged a hard-earned 18th after the #23 Audi was the innocent victim of an opening lap accident causing its retirement.
The 3.63-mile Paul Ricard (High Tech Test Track) circuit at Le Castellet, near Marseille, was opened in 1969. The 14-turn track is characterized by its long Mistral straight (1.12-mile) and elongated track design. The track, built on a plateau, is known for its distinctive blue, black and red colored run-off areas.
At Spa, the #67 Audi will be piloted by Emil Assentato (USA), Stefan Johansson (Sw) and Alain Li (F) – Mark Patterson unable to attend due to prior business commitments – with Mark Blundell (GB), Zak Brown (USA), Eddie Cheever (USA) and Richard Dean (GB) aboard the “sister” #68 R8 LMS.
There is now an 11-week break in the FIA GT3 European Championship before the ninth and 10th rounds are staged at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão (Portugal) over September 18-19.
Race 1 (Saturday)
Qualifying: 8th #23 Bell, 2m 10.741s; 19th #22 Guasch, 2m 13.267s. Weather: Sunny, hot.
Race Result: 13th (#23) +78.111s P1; 17th (#22) -1 lap P1. Weather: Sunny, very hot.
Having been the fastest Audi R8 LMS for the first time this season in Friday’s second practice, Bell continued United Autosports’ ever-improving trend by netting the American team’s best start position of the season, an eventual eighth place on the 25-car grid despite dropping two places in the final minute of qualifying – to be the best placed Audi again – and having only gained 14-laps knowledge of the high-speed Ricard track the previous day.
Bell and Guasch completed the opening lap in eighth and 17th positions respectively prior to a 15-minute Safety Car period beginning on lap two to retrieve crashed and abandoned cars. Having taken three separate hits following the re-start, Guasch pitted from 14th place with 32mins to run, Patterson resuming 18th.
Bell, up from eighth to second and just 3.539s behind the leader, handed over to Brown 35mins in to the one-hour race at the end of the permitted timed pit-stop phase, the American back on the track in 10th place in the 25-lap race.
Zak slipped to 13th with 15mins remaining, a position in which he took the checker to record the #23 Audi’s best result of the season – with Patterson gaining two places in the closing minutes to finish 17th – the first time the #22 Audi had finished behind its “sister” R8 LMS since the opening race at Silverstone.
Race 2 (Sunday)
Qualifying: 20th #23 Brown, 2m 11.737s; 22nd #22 Patterson, 2m 12.372s. Weather: Sunny, hot.
Race Result: 18th (#22) +89.500s P1; Retired, accident damage (#23). Weather: Sunny, very hot.
The race for the #23 Audi was over almost before it had started when on the opening lap Brown, completely blinded by the mass of cars ahead, collided at Turn Five with an Aston Martin which had been spun around but was then hit again launching it in to the path of the of the innocent Brown causing front suspension and steering damage, the Audi limping back to the pits and retirement.
Following an eight-minute Safety Car period which ensued to clear up the debris, Patterson resumed 19th at the green light but lost two places as the race settled down before handing over to Guasch placed 20th with 29mins on the clock, Michael complimenting his co-driver’s steady run in which he set competitive times en route to 18th place at the finish.
#22 Molecule / Cerutti – Audi R8 LMS
Michael Guasch (USA). Lives: Walnut Creek, California, USA:
“In Race One I started from 24th place on the grid but picked up seven places on the first lap. Much of my stint was behind a Safety Car which became a melee when it went green. I was up to 15th but got spun around when I dived down the inside of a guy who turned in having not seen me. Mark handed the over to me in Race Two having kept out of trouble which was a big deal in itself. I drove the best I could – it was awfully hot [ambient temperature 37°C]. The Audi handled well allowing me to set consistent good times.”
Mark Patterson (USA). Lives: Bronxville, New York State, USA:
“The opening race was a long and lonely stint for me – and extremely hot work. I was a little frustrated with myself as I felt I hadn’t used the car to its maximum. The tires were rebalanced overnight after Michael had taken a couple of hits in Race One making the Audi handle better in the second race. I lost time with the ugly accident on the opening lap which I somehow managed to avoid being a part of. Pretty happy all things considered.”
#23 Remington – Audi R8 LMS
Zak Brown (USA). Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA:
“We achieved the #23 Audi’s best result of the season in the opening race with 13th which was the hottest, in terms of ambient temperature [over 30°C], I’ve ever raced in. Matt’s stint was compromised with the Safety Car and I was immediately defending when I took over from him. Race two was short lived – I’d made a good start, gained a couple of places, but an Aston spun, was stationary facing me, I went to go left but then it was hit by another car which moved the Aston into my path, damaging the Audi’s steering and suspension on the right side.”
Matthew Bell (GB). Lives: Barningham nr Richmond, North Yorkshire, England:
“A Lamborghini held me up at the start of Race One which cost me some places which I managed to get back further around the opening lap. The Safety Car hampered our strategy. Our pace in the corners is good but we’re slow on the straight compared to the competition which doesn’t seem particularly balanced here. Unfortunately for the second consecutive race weekend, I didn’t get to drive in Race Two which is frustrating especially as I won’t get to race the Audi again until mid-September.”
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
“The Safety Car in Race One didn’t allow Matt to open up the gap we’d hoped he could achieve so when Zak went out, he was in the thick of action with the very fast Lamborghinis and Corvettes on his tail – a thankless task on a track like Ricard. The #23 Audi achieved our team’s best qualifying result of the season and went on to record that car’s best race result of the year and because we’re disappointed, that shows how much we’re expecting of ourselves now. Both Mark and Michael did workmanlike jobs in the #22 Audi to continue its 100% top-20 finishing record.
In Race Two, Zak made a good start but got caught up in the mayhem that unfolded in front of him so that was it for the #23 Audi. Mark was delayed in the same incident which he managed to pick his way through and both he and Michael, who was setting times comparable with the guys in P7-12, made up places and did good jobs once again.”
Audi R8 LMS (Sportscar according to latest 2010 FIA GT3 regulations)
V10 5.2-liter engine, 4 valves per cylinder, petrol direct injection, emission control by two racing catalytic converters, rear-wheel-drive, traction control (ASR), sequential pneumatic activated 6-speed sport gearbox with shift-paddles, Audi Space Frame (ASF) made of aluminum with bolted steel roll-cage, carbon-fiber composite/aluminum bodywork, Michelin radial tires. Approx 500 hp (reduced power). Start weight 1,320kg. Limitation at 8500rpm for every gear. Developed by Audi Sport with cooperation from quattro GmbH. Won FIA GT3 European Championship, ADAC-GT Masters and Belgian GT Championship plus Nürburgring 24 Hours and Spa 24 Hours class victories in début 2009 season scoring a total 23 victories.
* More United Autosports Editorial Copyright Free photographs are available at www.flickr.com/unitedautosports