Saturday, November 20, 2010

United Autosports Start Macau Street Race From Second And Fourth Rows

· Danny Watts narrowly denied front row start by Red Flag stoppage
· Hairpin queue delay costs Richard Meins likely top-five grid slot

Danny Watts (England) starts his Audi R8 LMS sports car from third place with United Autosports team-mate Richard Meins (England) placed eighth on the on the near capacity 33-car grid in the GT Cup race at Macau tomorrow (Sunday November 21).

Watts swept his #3 Audi to a personal best fastest time of 2min 31.798secs, an average speed of 90.19mph, around the ultra-demanding 3.8-mile temporary street circuit. Meins, meanwhile, clocked a 2:35.940 (87.79mph) in the #28 R8 LMS in today's delayed 30-minute qualifying session.

The team had arrived at the circuit at 6.30am in preparation for the 8.15am scheduled time trial only to find organizers had revised the timetable overnight, delaying GT Cup qualifying until 10.55am – a session which was red flagged three times and ultimately abandoned with still nine minutes to run.

Watts and Meins posted P2 & P7 times on their first flying laps and Watts' time would ultimately stand as his best – thwarted by the first red flag after 8mins, the second red on 15mins of running and then the third and final stoppage, which organizers then deemed signaled the end of proceedings, 21mins in – the session actually having lasted 44mins by that stage.

Danny crossed the finish line 0.3secs after the red flag had been shown for the final time and so was cruelly denied that lap time which was within a second of the pole-sitter (Keifa Sawa, Lamborghini LP560, 2:25.386) which would have moved Watts on to the front row.

Meins did improve on his initial first flying lap time but was a casualty of another traffic jam caused by the #22 Lamborghini Gallardo still being unable to negotiate the Melco Hairpin – the source of the final red flag. A top-five grid would have been the Kong Kong-based Englishman's reward but for the delay.

Watts and Meins had set the sixth (2m 44.409s) and 12th (2m 52.312s) fastest times in a bizarre opening GT practice session the previous day when the entire test was disrupted lap after lap when most of the Lamborghini Gallardo sports cars were unable to get around the tight Melco Hairpin cleanly.

Only rarely did a Gallardo make it without coming to a complete standstill, either necessitating assistance from marshals or conducting a three-point turn maneuver. Consequently lengthy stationary queues formed on the approach, up to 12-cars at times, which ultimately caught out Meins after 14mins.

The 10-lap race, featuring a United Autosports entry and the Audi R8 LMS for the first time, is scheduled to start at 10.05am (local time) tomorrow.

#3 Gulf Marine Lubricants / Mandarin Shipping / TT Club – Audi R8 LMS
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.

"Qualifying was disjointed denying me any opportunity of getting in to a rhythm but that often sums up Macau. It's a unique place and very different from the majority of tracks we race on and these things will always happen here. With a big grid on such a demanding track, it's up to you as a driver and the team to make sure you don't suffer. I got a 'banker' lap in early on which was always the plan. I stopped after the first red flag, made some changes to the car to make the front end a little sharper, changed tires and went back out but unfortunately just didn't have the time to get the ultimately lap in. But the Audi now feels very good, I'm really looking forward to the race."

#28 Gulf Marine Lubricants / Mandarin Shipping / TT Club – Audi R8 LMS
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. Weather: Sunny, warm.

"Frustrating sums up qualifying for me. On my second flying lap I was delayed by a couple of Lamborghinis clearing themselves at the hairpin. Then I had to come to a complete standstill when the #22 Lambo nosed in to the Armco at the same spot which ultimately brought an end to the session. My 10th Macau meeting got off to a disappointing start in Friday's opening practice session. I came across a queue of stationary, double 'parked' cars on the approach to the hairpin and couldn't avoid making contact causing me to miss half the session and necessitating a rebuild of the front right suspension overnight. There are only one or maybe two overtaking possibilities on the circuit so starting from row four I have my work cut out but I'll give it my best shot."

Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
"On paper third and eighth places on the grid looks to be a reasonable achievement but the times are totally unrepresentative and on a track like Macau, you need to be right at the very front just to stay clear of likely carnage. Richard's sector times were good enough for a place on the front two rows which would have kept him out of the 'danger zone'. Danny did a time a smidgen off pole and having been to see the race organizers, they confirmed he crossed the line 0.3secs after the red light was thrown and so the lap didn't count. Overtaking opportunities are few and far between and having witnessed what's gone on over the last two days with all of the on-track mayhem, I just don't know what will happen come the race."

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