Watts drove his Audi R8 LMS home to third place in the 10-lap GT Cup race at the prestigious Macau season-closing race meeting in Asia. Team-mate Richard Meins (England), who lives in nearby Hong Kong, retired the "sister" #28 Audi from eighth place on the eighth lap with a transmission issue.
The United Autosports GT3 class Audi sports cars qualified in third (Watts) and eighth (Meins) places on the 33-car grid but Meins started from seventh when three cars non-started. After an opening lap collision and subsequent track clear up in the preceding Road Sport Challenge event, the GT Cup race started under Safety Car conditions for the opening two laps as cement dust remained on the racing line approaching Turn 1.
In a generally processional 27-minute race around the 3.8-mile "street" circuit Watts, who has been the team's driver coach throughout its maiden FIA GT3 European Championship season, encountered low grip level while Meins had slipped back to ninth at mid-distance.
United Autosports which raced for the very first time in April this year, competed in 17 races. In Belgium (twice), China, Czech Republic, England (twice), France, Macau, Portugal and Spain with the Audi involving 14 different drivers. The team also did two race weekends with the Ginetta G50 (BGT & BritCar).
The team scored top-three podium results in the FIA GT3 European Championship, 24 Hours of Spa, Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (Zhuhai, China) and now the prestigious annual Macau GT Cup race – all in the ambitious team's first year of competition.
Its brace of Audi sports cars are scheduled to arrive back in England on December 31. Work will begin immediately on both R8 LMS cars with one going on static display to promote the Autosport International Show (Birmingham, England) at the nearby Hilton Metropole Hotel (January 13-16). A brand new R8 LMS should be delivered from Audi in January.
Testing commences in February at Navarra (Spain) in readiness for the team's second consecutive season in the FIA GT3 European Championship (Zak Brown/Matt Bell plus TBA/TBA) and its inaugural full British GT Championship campaign (Matt Bell/Michael Guasch plus John Bintcliffe/Jay Palmer).
Danny Watts (GB). Age: 30. Lives: Thornborough nr Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, England:
Macau History – 2002: 1st Formula Asia 2000; 2003: 10th F3 Grand Prix; 2004: 12th F3 GP; 2005: Retired F3 GP; 2006: 1st Porsche Carrera Cup Asia; 2007: 5th Porsche Carrera Cup Asia (finished 1st on road but given 25secs penalty for yellow flag infringement); 2008: 2nd Macau GT Cup; 2009: 3rd Macau GT Cup.
Qualifying: 3rd, 2m 31.798s. Weather: Sunny, warm. Race Result: 3rd, +30.8s. Weather: Sunny, warm.
"My best opportunity for gaining a place was going into Lisboa on the first lap but with the race starting behind the Safety Car for two laps, I just didn't have sufficient heat in the tires to challenge. I attacked and pushed as hard as I possibly could and drove my heart out, I really wanted my first Macau GT race win but it wasn't to be and that maiden GT victory continues to elude me. The grip level didn't really come in for some reason and I had to take care of the brakes at times – there was absolutely nothing more to come. After the last two days, I couldn't believe that the race ran cleanly without any crashes – just when I needed a Safety Car it never came! But I've had a great time, really enjoyed myself racing for United Autosports again and just thoroughly love Macau."
Richard Meins (GB). Age: 55. Born: Beckenham, England. Lives: Hong Kong:
Macau History – 2000: Retired Guia Race (Ford Focus); 2001: Retired Guia Race (Ford Focus); 2002: 12th Guia Race (Ford Focus); 2003: 6th Guia Race (Ford Focus); 2004: Retired Guia Race (Honda Integra); 2005: 2nd (Class B) Porsche Carrera Cup Asia; 2007: 1st (Class B) Porsche Carrera Cup Asia; 2008: 8th Macau GT Cup; 2009: 11th Macau GT Cup.
Qualifying: 8th, 2m 35.940s. Race Result: Retired.
"I was challenging for seventh place when I had a transmission problem coming in to the Melco Hairpin and lost drive. I rebooted the system but lost drive again for good at Lisboa. The start had been confusing, we all thought it was going to be one lap behind the Safety Car but ended up doing two. I made a mistake by braking too early at the end of the straight which allowed the Ginetta of Frank Yu to get through. That in itself was a shame because Frank was a lot slower around the back section than me. I lost a place to Dilantha Malagamuwa in the Lamborghini but nudged the back of his Lambo when Frank was slow through Fishermans to regain the place. I was all over Frank's Ginetta and it was only a matter of time that I'd get through but then I had the problem. I've nevertheless had a great two races with United Autosports in the Audi R8 LMS and would love to drive with them again."
Zak Brown (USA). Chairman & Co-Owner of United Autosports: Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA:
"What United Autosports has achieved in its first season is beyond my wildest dreams. We've made our mark in a number of different championships and stand alone races with stellar driver line-ups – it's been an awesome first year for everyone connected with our team. We're well advanced with plans for our 2011 campaigns in the European GT3 and British GT championships and have other exciting plans in store for next season."
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
"We cannot be disappointed with a podium although it would have been nice to finish our first year off on the top step. I'm a little frustrated that we didn't challenge for the race win. Our team came here as Macau virgins and perhaps that showed in the race – we will certainly do things differently when we come back to this unique race track again. It demands a different approach and that showed as the guys who finished in front of us are Macau 'veterans' while the regulations are not as closely matched to the GT3 rules that we abide to in Europe so we've learned lessons the hard way. I'm also certain that Audi will learn from its first visit to Macau with the R8 LMS.
"Having started our year off at Oulton Park in April, to finish our début season off with another rostrum result, on the other side of the world here in Macau, we've all got to be proud of ourselves. It's been an amazing 'road trip' for our team, comprising of a small number of permanent staff, who had not even started work on the Audi project this time last year. We've made a solid start and one which we plan to build on in 2011."