United Autosports aims to sign off from its maiden FIA GT3 European Championship campaign in style when it contests the final two races of the season at Zolder (Belgium) next month (October 10).
Formed earlier this season, the American-owned team found the opening rounds of the ultra-competitive 12-race series unsurprisingly difficult – entirely predictable considering its one British and three American drivers had not seen, let alone raced, at almost all of the demanding and technical European tracks.
The unfavorable “Balance of Power” restrictions implemented from the start of the season in May on the Audi R8 LMS sports car, which had won the 2009 FIA GT3 title in its début year, by the series organizers additionally caused the British-based team to struggle in terms of outright pace.
But with the Audi’s performance handicap reduced, United Autosports immediately made its mark at the most recent races in Portugal (September 18-19). Zak Brown (USA), Chairman and Co-Owner of United Autosports plus driver of the #23 Audi, achieved the team’s best ever qualifying position (second place). Co-driver Matt Bell (GB) and #22 Audi pilot Michael Guasch (USA) both claimed their personal best qualifying positions (sixth). Guasch and #22 co-driver Mark Patterson (USA) netted United Autosports’ maiden championship point in Race 1 (10th). Then Brown and Bell combined to score a fabulous rostrum finish (third) in Race 2.
These stunning results mean United Autosports heads for Belgium and the final two 60-minute races, unusually staged on the same day, on the crest of a wave. The Circuit Zolder, also known as Circuit Terlaemen, is an undulating 2.492-mile track in Heusden-Zolder, positioned 50-mile west of Brussels.
Built in 1963, Zolder hosted the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix on 10 occasions in the 1970s and ‘80s when the F1 “circus” deemed Spa-Francorchamps, a venue where United Autosports finished third and fourth (GT3) in the 24 Hour race this summer, too fast and dangerous.
Saturday October 9
09:05-10:05 Practice 1
13:05-14:05 Practice 2
Sunday October 10
10:30-11:30 Race 1
16:00-17:00 Race 2
* Local times
#22 Molecule / Cerutti – Audi R8 LMS
Michael Guasch (USA). Lives: Walnut Creek, California, USA:
“Despite never having been to Zolder, after our best finish and showing yet in the series in our last races [Algarve], I am very, very excited about the Zolder races. Now with the Audi being competitive, we should have a very good chance of a top-10 placing again at the very least.”
Mark Patterson (USA). Lives: Bronxville, New York State, USA:
“With the series’ homologation efforts now largely in balance, the top-10 features; a great cross section of top class brands. This gives us great hope for Audi doing as well as we did in Portugal last month but there’s real depth of high quality drivers and this series produces seriously exciting races. I’ve only previously ‘visited’ Zolder on YouTube. Any racing fatality makes an impact on all of us emotionally, especially when greats like Gilles Villeneuve are taken away. The only silver lining is track and vehicle safety improvements derived from these tragedies.”
#23 Remington – Audi R8 LMS
Zak Brown (USA). Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA:
“Our team’s performance has improved with every race and we arrive in Belgium fresh from achieving our best qualifying and race results of the season. Portugal gave me the greatest pleasure so far – our podium and a front row qualifying position was pretty cool. I'm optimistic we can further improve and get both cars in the points and on to the podium. The championship is a lot tougher than I expected but we’ve made huge progress. I raced at Zolder about 16 years ago in an Opel Lotus single-seater. From what I recall, it was a fun but dangerous track for the brave!”
Matthew Bell (GB). Lives: Barningham nr Richmond, North Yorkshire, England:
“It’s always a challenge going to a new circuit but I’m very hopeful that we can be as competitive in Belgium as we were at Portimão and claim more points to finish the season off on a high note haul. Our Portimão podium has given me a taste of success and I want more. I’m hoping we can keep the momentum going forward in the final rounds.”
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
“The drivers [once again] do not know the [Zolder] circuit but it should suit the Audi R8 LMS. It is very, very hard on brakes and that is one of the Audi’s strong points. I hope the drivers can build on our Portimão positives and carry this new found confidence with them in to Zolder.
“I have been to Zolder several times with my previous Formulae Ford and Renault teams but only ever raced there once, in a 24 hour GT race driving a Ginetta two years ago. Unfortunately, Zolder is probably best remembered as the place Gilles Villeneuve lost his life during qualifying at the 1982 Belgian GP. I think that had an impact on everybody in motorsport. I love the circuit but hate the inappropriately pathetic tribute to Villeneuve placed closed to the circuit’s race control building.”
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. Start weight 1,335kg. 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. United Autosports achieved third and fourth places on the team’s 24 hour race début in the 2010 Spa 24 Hours and its first FIA GT3 European Championship top-three finish in Portugal (19 Sep).
* A comprehensive library of Editorial Copyright Free photographs can be downloaded at www.flickr.com/unitedautosports.