• Stellar driver line-up for United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing entry
The Anglo-American quartet race a Riley-Ford Daytona Prototype at the legendary Daytona International Speedway located 60-miles north of Orlando, the historic race staged on a 3.56-mile, 12-turn course utilizing sections of the recently re-paved DIS "oval" plus infield section.
United Autosports was formed last year to compete primarily in the FIA GT3 European Championship with a brace of Audi R8 LMS GT3 class sports cars operated out of a raceshop in England and has joined forces with GRAND-AM regular entrant Michael Shank Racing for its first race on US soil.
United Autosports Chairman and Co-Owner Zak Brown is no stranger to the Rolex 24 At Daytona but races a DP for the first time while fellow American Mark Patterson is a "veteran" of eight Rolex 24 events having finished second in 2006.
1988 Daytona 24 Hour race winner Martin Brundle is contesting his first international sportscar race since finishing third in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 10 years ago – a race the Englishman won in 1990. Brundle, who also finished second at Daytona in '90 – his only other Rolex 24 entry – shares a racecar for the very first time in his lengthy and illustrious career with fellow former 24 Hours of Le Mans race winner and Grand Prix Formula One ace Mark Blundell who set the #23 Riley's fastest lap (1min 40.904secs) at the "Roar Before the 24" earlier this month (January 9) – Mark's first ever visit to the Daytona facility. Brundle set a personal fastest within a hundredth of a second of Blundell's time with Brown and Patterson also on the pace.
Sponsorship for United Autosports' maiden North American foray, the opening round of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, includes Johnnie Walker, UBS, Legends of Motorsports, Just Marketing International, GAC Logistics, Thunderhead, FXI and Luke's Joint.
Daytona History: None. Daytona 24Hr: Début. Other 24Hr races: Le Mans, France (1989, 1990, 1992/1st, 1995/4th, 2001, 2002, 2003/2nd); Spa, Belgium (2010/3rd in class).
"All of the set-up work was completed at the test with all drivers having good input and the team doing a tremendous job. Going through data with Richard [Dean] was also very helpful as even with our levels of experience, you never stop learning.
Our car is capable of qualifying in the top-six if we get everything right and have a little luck but I will be happy with a top-10 place on the grid. Then if we can finish in the top-six I think we will have done a tremendous job. The field is ultra-competitive. We are running with current Indy Car drivers including Indy Car Champions and Indy 500 winners plus NASCAR multiple champions. There are top flight cars, top flight teams and top flight drivers. We are not going to kid ourselves but we do have a chance of getting a result. Whoever can carve through the traffic the quickest and the safest is in with a good chance of a top result."
Zak Brown (USA). Age: 39. Born: Los Angeles, California, USA. Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA.
Daytona History: Four 24Hr races. Daytona 24Hr: Début 1997. Number of Daytona 24Hr race appearances: 4. 1997/8th o/a, 2nd GTS, 1999, 2000 (GT), 2010 33rd/20th (GT). Other 24Hr races: BritCar, Silverstone, GB (2nd o/a, 1st in class); Spa, Belgium (2010/3rd in class).
"As Chairman of an American team, I'm hugely excited to have United Autosports racing on 'home' soil in the biggest endurance race in the States. And to do it with two ex-Formula One drivers, both of whom have previously won at Le Mans, and in a car that is capable of a top result, makes it all the more special so it is a big moment for United Autosports.
Our first objective is to finish but there is no reason why we cannot achieve a top result. We have just got to stay out of the pits, stay out of trouble, don't do anything stupid and don't self inflict ourselves with any wounds. If we do that, I think we can pull off a great result."
Martin Brundle (GB). Age: 51. Born: King's Lynn, Norfolk, England. Lives: Gayton, Norfolk, England.Daytona History: Two 24Hr races. Daytona 24Hr: Début 1988. Number of Daytona 24Hr race appearances: 2. 1988: 1st (Jaguar XJR-9); 1990: 2nd (Jaguar XJR-12); Last raced at Daytona 1990. Other 24Hr races: Le Mans, France (1987, 1988, 1990/1st, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001; Spa, Belgium (1983, 1984); Willhire, Snetterton, GB (1980/1st in class).
"We won't be the fastest out there so we have got to be the smartest and stay out of trouble, stay out of the pits and see how far we get. If we've managed that come Sunday morning then we could be looking at a good result. If you look at the line-ups in the race, the drivers are young pros at the highest levels of motorsport. Many of these guys are doing this week in week out, year in, year out. They know this race, they know the track.
It'll be tremendous fun, if not a tiring experience remembering what it was like for me in 1988 and '90 but I'm really looking forward to the race weekend."
Mark Patterson (USA). Age: 59. Born: Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Lives: Bronxville, N.Y., USA.
Daytona History: Seven 24Hr races. Daytona 24Hr: Début 2004. Number of Daytona 24Hr race appearances: 7. (2004 38th/13th SGS, 2005 23rd/14th (DP), 2006/2nd (DP), 2007/9th (DP), 2008/6th (DP), 2009 41st/16th (DP), 2010/7th (DP). Other 24Hr races: Spa, Belgium (2009 17th o/a, 2010/4th in class).
"There is tremendous quality in terms of drivers and teams. Staying out of the garage wins you this race and that's what it's all about. The two class racing [DP & GT] in GRAND-AM obviously adds spice in terms of lapping slower traffic – it's important to pace yourself in making the pass on these slower cars. Zak, Mark and I did Spa together last summer while working with Martin is a blast.
I hope we can do well. We have got some good competition even from within the Michael Shank Racing team with all three teams having a great opportunity for a top-six result."
Mike Shank (USA), Team Owner of Michael Shank Racing:
"After the Daytona test, we know what our pace is and what we need to do during the race. A big thing is not making mistakes and staying out of trouble and these guys all understand that fully with all of them experienced in 24 hour races."
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
"Mike [Shank] knows the GRAND-AM Series inside out and his guys know the car inside out so my role is more an over-seeing one. Listening over the radio and checking the computers so that I can pass on information to our drivers at change-over for example. When a driver gets out of the car I will be able to give him details about the stint. Normally I am much more hands on but this is nevertheless interesting for me. I've competed in the Rolex having attended the race with my Dad when I was a school kid – it's legendary."
Rolex 24 At Daytona – Provisional Timetable
Thursday, January 27
3.45-4pm Qualifying (Daytona Prototypes)
Friday, January 28
Saturday, January 29
12.15pm Driver autograph session
2.15pm Grid opens
3pm Pre-race ceremonies/ All cars on the grid
3.30pm START – 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona
Sunday, January 30
3.30pm FINISH – 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona
Rolex 24 At Daytona Television Coverage:
Saturday, Jan. 22: (F/X) Grand Am: 24 Hours at Daytona Preview 11pm.
Sunday, Jan. 23: (SPEED) Grand Am: 24 Hours at Daytona Preview 8pm.
Saturday, Jan. 29: (SPEED) Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (The Start) 3-10pm. (Live)
Saturday, Jan. 29: (Eurosport 2) Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (The Start) 8.30pm (UK time)
Saturday, Jan. 29: (Eurosport 2) Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona 10.15pm (UK time)
Sunday, Jan. 30: (SPEED) Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (The Finish) 9am-4pm (Live)
Sunday, Jan 30: (Eurosport 2) Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (The Finish) 6.45pm (UK time).
Rolex 24 At Daytona Live timing:
Practice, Qualifying & Race at: http://www.grand-am.com/