Sunday, September 19, 2010

United Autosports Claims FIA GT3 European Championship Podium Finish

· American-owned team achieves its first "top-three" result in latest race
· Guasch & Patterson prove a point for team in opening Portuguese race
· Chairman & Co-Owner Brown attains team's maiden front row start position 

Zak Brown (left) and Matt Bell celebrate United Autosports’ maiden FIA GT3 European Championship podium finish
United Autosports came of age in the latest rounds of the FIA GT3 European Championship at the Autodr ómo Internacional do Algarve circuit near Portimão (POR) this weekend (September 18-19).

The official Audi "customer" team finally claimed its first championship silverware when Zak Brown and Matt Bell swept their Audi R8 LMS to a magnificent third place – a mere 8.356secs behind the winner – in Sunday's one-hour race after 33-laps around the technical 2.92-mile Portuguese track.

Team-mates Michael Guasch and Mark Patterson scored United Autosports' maiden championship point 24 hours earlier while underlining the British-based team's competitiveness, Brown achieved a front row start position for Saturday's opening one-hour race.

United Autosports contests the final two rounds of the FIA GT3 European Championship at Zolder (Belgium) over October 9-10.

Race 1 (Saturday)
Qualifying: 2nd #23 Brown, 1m 46.575s; 6th #22 Guasch, 1m 47.176s. Weather: Sunny, hot.
Race Result: 10th (#22) +48.074s P1; Retired - mechanical (#23). Weather: Sunny, hot.

The ninth round of the 12-race series witnessed the team's best qualifying performance of the season with Brown impressively claiming a front row position – only being denied pole-position by 0.153secs in the final five minutes with Guasch getting bumped down three places to sixth in the closing moments.

But the one-hour race began disastrously when Brown was hit from behind at the first corner moments after the green light resulting in little bodywork damage to the Audi R8 LMS but effectively ruining the race for the #23 Audi. Brown resumed half a lap down at the back of the 23-car field and handed over to Bell in 21st with 33mins remaining only for Bell, now 20th, to roll to a standstill nine minutes later with a mechanical gremlin – a likely legacy of the opening lap impact.

Guasch made a flying start and pressed for fourth place in the opening laps, the American running very strongly in fifth place until he too was punted from behind off the track and into a spin on lap six, dropping to 13th position. Gausch pitted to Patterson placed third during the compulsory pit-stop phase on 30mins with Mark running strongly, setting the #22 Audi's fastest lap 15mins from the checker which he took in 11th place – less than four seconds behind the sixth-placed finisher. Amended results were later issued which saw Guasch/Patterson classified 10th earning United Autosports its maiden FIA GT3 European Championship points.

Race 2 (Sunday)
Qualifying: 6th #23 Bell, 1m 46.095s; 20th #22 Patterson, 1m 47.442s. Weather: Sunny, hot.
Race Result: 3rd (#23) +8.356s P1; 14th (#22) +54.494s P1. Weather: Sunny, very hot.

Bell lined-up on the grid in sixth place following a seven-hour engine change the previous evening – his personal best qualifying position of the season – with a time that would have comfortably earned the British youngster "pole" in Race 1 despite only having clocked up three "flying laps" prior to Saturday's qualifying session.

Matt completed the opening lap in ninth but ran eighth for much of his stint before handing over to Brown in sixth position with 25mins to run. The American spun at Turn 1 early in his stint, dropping three places to ninth, but drove superbly thereafter to snatch third place in the final three minutes and close to within 1.754secs of the second-placed car at the finish.

Patterson spun 20mins into the race and handed over to Guasch placed 19th with 29mins on the clock, Michael consistently setting competitive times to be the fastest car on the track in the closing stages to haul himself in to a creditable 14th by the finish.
Mark Patterson (left) and Michael Guasch scored the team’s first FIA GT3 European Championship point in Saturday’s race 
#22 Molecule / Cerutti – Audi R8 LMS
Michael Guasch (USA). Lives: Walnut Creek, California, USA:
"Qualifying for Race 1 went very well and I comfortably achieved my best-ever start position. I made a great jump at the green light and spent the opening laps hounding a Ferrari which I just couldn't find a way past but was then hit up the back pretty hard which spun me around off the track. I put my head down and reeled them back in and my car's performance was great as my stint went on. We started from near the back of the grid in Race 2 and despite picking up a couple a seconds each lap, it was too much time to make up but the car was just great and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. This weekend was the first time that I arrived with previous track knowledge after testing here at the beginning of the year. We had car capable of mixing it at the front due to the latest Balance of Performance changes since Ricard which allowed the team and I to show our true potential."

Mark Patterson (USA). Lives: Bronxville, New York State, USA:
"Mike handed me a great car in the opening race with the Dunlop tires standing up real well which allowed me to set our car's fastest lap time late on. I also had a good tussle with a Ferrari but like Mike, was all over him in the corners but found it difficult to get past on the straight-aways. I had a spin coming out of the last sweeper in Sunday's race which could have ultimately cost Mike and I a second top-10 result of the weekend. The Audi was fabulous allowing me to claw back some positions that I lost at the start. It's just a shame that I qualified down where I did."

Matthew Bell (left) and Zak Brown – the latter achieved the team’s first front row start position on Saturday – with the duo recording United Autosports’ maiden FIA GT3 European Championship podium finish on Sunday
23 Remington – Audi R8 LMS
Zak Brown (USA). Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA:
"Race 1 promised so much but delivered nothing. The pole-starting Corvette and I both had terrible starts, the Pace Car seemed to bring us around very slowly and as soon as the race started we were engulfed and I took a hit from behind. It was very disappointing and frustrating after achieving our first front row start – after that I just tried to keep my cool. I took over from Matt in Race 2 and rejoined just in front of three cars already up to speed and I made a mistake and spun at Turn 1. That cost around 10secs and we finished eight behind the winner at the checker! The rest of the stint was brilliant and I was comfortably catching the guys ahead in the closing stages – it was great fun. Richard [Dean] and the entire team have done a fantastic job in our first season and I'm delighted with the Audi R8 LMS. We arrived here on the back of a rostrum finish in the 24 Hours of Spa and have achieved a front row start, scored our first top-three finish while the #22 Audi scored our first ever championship point yesterday so a tremendous weekend for United Autosports.”

Matthew Bell (GB). Lives: Barningham nr Richmond, North Yorkshire, England:
“The Audi was difficult to drive when I took over from Zak in Race 1, something had obviously been damaged in the first lap impact. Despite this I quickly caught a group ahead of me but the handling was horrible and I couldn’t challenge them before the car suddenly lost all power and drive. The opening lap of Sunday’s race was hectic and I lost three places. It was nervous under braking and steering after I struggled to get enough heat in to the front tires. That resolved itself but late in to my stint the rear was nervous – possibly the tire pressures were too high and I was very conscious of looking after the rubber for Zak’s stint. It’s a great feeling to finally step onto the rostrum.”

Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
“I couldn’t be happier for Zak [Brown] and it’s great to repay Audi’s faith in us. Saturday’s race was a massive disappointment. With ours cars starting from rows one and three, it’s fair to say we expected at least one podium. The Pace Car brought the field around very slowly and the momentum was with the guys behind Zak and the pole-sitter. Zak was tapped from behind so that was race over for the #23 Audi which later retired with a mechanical issue. Mike ran a strong opening stint despite also getting hit while Mark, running with some very quick drivers, set lap times comparable with the top-10 runners. On Sunday, the #22 Audi had a lot to do starting from where it did. Mark had good pace but suffered a spin at a corner which caught out a number of other cars. Mike set some unbelievably good times and was the fastest guy out there at the end. Zak and Matt had a car capable of winning the race and but for Zak’s spin, we probably would have but I’m not going to complain – we’ll take a third and build on it for the final two races in Belgium. Matt drove a solid opening stint, keeping his cool after losing a couple of places at the start and quickly got in to a good rhythm which is the mark of a good driver. Meanwhile Zak drove a fantastic race – he’s so committed to this program and this result is a great reward.”          

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).

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