· American team attends Spa 24 Hour race test day at famous Belgian circuit
· New high-profile sponsors for prestigious European round-the-clock encounter
(Left to right) Emil Assentato, Stefan Johansson, Alain Li, Zak Brown, Richard Dean, Mark Blundell and Eddie Cheever
The United Autosports team trucks now return to its base in Leeds, England, after a hectic four-week, 5,000-mile excursion which culminated in a one-day “official” test at Spa-Francorchamps today (Wednesday July 7) at the legendary Belgian venue in readiness for the annual 24 Hour race.
The American owned team enters two Audi R8 LMS sports cars in the twice-around-the-clock encounter. The #67 Audi was piloted by Emil Assentato (USA), Stefan Johansson (Sw) and Alain Li (F) today – Mark Patterson (USA) completes the quartet but was unable to attend the eight-hour test today due to prior business commitments.
Mark Blundell (GB), Zak Brown (USA), Eddie Cheever (USA) and Richard Dean (GB) were aboard the “sister” #68 R8 LMS. Both cars completed a combined near total of 200-laps around the magnificent 4.352-mile, 21-corner track considered to be one of the most challenging race circuits in the world due to its fast, undulating and twisting nature, recording the sixth and eighth fastest times in the GT3 class combining the morning and afternoon sessions.
Season-long United Autosports’ sponsors Remington, Cerruti and LG Electronics are joined by Roger Dubuis Watches, FXDD, Road & Track, Legends of Motorsports and the Singapore Stock Exchange for the famous Belgian race staged over July 31-August 1 which will mark the team’s maiden 24 hour event.
The United Autosports team has been on the road since June 11 with tests at Albacete (Spain) and Nogaro (France) plus FIA GT3 European Championship races at Jarama (Spain) and Paul Ricard (France) before arriving at Spa.
United Autosports’ Co-Owners Brown and Dean fly to North America tonight for the Legends of Motorsports historic races at Mont-Tremblant, Quebec (Canada) this weekend (July 10-11). The American will race his 1979 ex-John Watson/Patrick Tambay Formula One McLaren M28 Cosworth while Dean is re-united with his Oulton Park (GB) 1990 Gold Cup race winning Reynard 90D Cosworth.
Legends of Motorsports is a race series owned by Historic Motorsports Productions whose principal owners are Brown, Bobby Rahal and Peter Stoneberg. Canada’s motor racing hero Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula One Champion and 1995 Indy Car World Series Champion, will serve as Grand Marshal at the event.
#67 Cerutti / FXDD / Robert Dubuis Watches / Road & Track / Legends of Motorsports / LG Electronics – Audi R8 LMS (running as #112 today)
Emil Assentato (USA). Age: 61. Born: New York City, N.Y., USA. Lives: Locust Valley, N.Y., USA:
“The car is totally new to me – today was the first time I’d ever sat behind the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS. With more miles the confidence will come. The track is what you believe a Grand Prix track should be and is exactly what I had dreamt it would be like – it’s challenging and dramatic with huge elevation changes. I’d love to conquer it but not sure I ever will. I flew in to Belgium having finished fourth in the latest Grand-Am GT race at Daytona (July 3) which retains Jeff Segal and I the GT championship lead.”
Stefan Johansson (Sw). Age: 53. Born: Växjö, Sweden. Lives: Los Angeles, California, USA:
“I’d driven the R8 LMS for the first time at Snetterton [GB] last month. There were a few niggles today but that is what testing is all about, finding these problems before the race and resolving them. I’m certain we’ll be on the pace when we return here at the end of the month.”
Alain Li (F). Age: 50. Born: Caen, France. Lives: Hong Kong:
“Today was my first drive in the Audi while it’s my first time back at Spa for around 12 years or so. The weather was superb today and the track was in good condition – just fantastic to be back. I’m learning about the Audi with every lap. I found it comfortable and nice to drive. I just need to find the car’s limits which will come with more mileage.”
Mark Patterson (USA). Age:58. Born: Port Elizabeth, S Africa. Lives: Bronxville, N.Y., USA:
· Not present at today’s test.
#68 Remington / Singapore Stock Exchange / Road & Track / Legends of Motorsports / LG Electronics – Audi R8 LMS (running as #111 today)
Mark Blundell (GB). Age: 44. Born: Barnet, England. Lives: Royston, England:
“I had a brief outing in the Audi at Silverstone [GB] in May and Snetterton last month but it’s great to get out at Spa again. We experienced an imbalance in the car this afternoon but made changes which found us speed and consistency. Eddie and I then finished off the test with a tire program. It’s been a very productive test.”
Zak Brown (USA). Age: 38. Born: Los Angeles, California, USA. Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA:
“There were a lot of fans lined up outside our garage to get a glimpse of Eddie, Mark and Stefan – it was a fantastic sight. It’s a huge privilege for me to have them in the United Autosports team. I raced here in the early 1990s so today was valuable to become re-acclimatized to this hugely daunting Spa track. We can now go away and study the data which can be put to good effect come the race week.”
Eddie Cheever (USA). Age: 52. Born: Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Lives: Indianapolis, USA:
“This was my first proper run in the Audi having had a brief acclimatization at Snetterton in wet conditions last month. We had some handling issues this afternoon which we worked on. But it was good to get in some mileage before the race. I’m looking forward to racing again at Spa and to be back behind the wheel for a 24 Hour race.”
Richard Dean (GB). Age: 45. Born & Lives: Leeds, West Yorkshire, England:
“I raced the Audi R8 LMS in the team’s début races at Oulton Park (GB) in April and did 20 laps at our Nogaro test last week so I’ve had a couple of decent runs in the car prior to today. Having spent the day at Spa, we’ll now go back to the workshop with a big job list to tick off so as to make the car more comfortable and consistent in preparation for the race. It was amazing to see the reaction of the officials when Eddie, Mark and Stefan signed-on this morning – everyone just stared – they’re still regarded as heroes.”
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.
* An Editorial Copyright Free photograph gallery from the Spa test can be accessed at www.flickr.com/unitedautosports
* Detailed biographies on each of the United Autosports drivers are available on request.