- Ex-British Grand Prix winner Herbert, Matt Bell, Richard Meins & Henri Richard to make Spa 24 Hour race débuts
- 1991 Le Mans race winner Herbert reacquainted with Audi marque
Bell raced for United Autosports in the FIA GT3 European Championship last year and continues in the FIA series as well as the British GT Championship this year. Meanwhile Richard and Meins competed for United Autosports in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (Zhuhai, China) last November, California-based Henri Richard recording third place in the GTC category while Hong Kong-based Richard Meins ended up unclassified after his Audi had led much of the 1,000km race. Meins also drove in the GT Cup race at Macau.
The identity of the 12th and final driver which Zak Brown, Chairman & Co-Owner of United Autosports, promises will be another “legend” plus car combinations will be finalized early next month (April) for Britain’s only “official” Audi Sport customer team racing at Spa which is the third round of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
Brown was at the 12 Hours of Sebring (Florida, USA) last Saturday (March 19) to monitor the progress of BGT driver Michael Guasch (1st LMPC) and Spa race recruits Alain Li (2nd GTC) and Henri Richard (7th LMPC). Johansson was also an interested spectator. Zak, Founder & CEO of JMI (Just Marketing International), the global leader in motorsports marketing, received the distinguished honor of induction into Street and Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame earlier this week, having been named for the third time as a recipient of the prestigious award.
Last year’s corresponding Spa race was United Autosports’ maiden twice-around-the-clock event in which they achieved praiseworthy third and fourth places in the GT3 classification to record the highest-placed finishing positions for Audi with its two-car entry.
This year’s Spa event will mark the team’s third 24 hour race. Blundell, Brown, Martin Brundle (GB) and Mark Patterson (USA) achieved a magnificent fourth place finish in the 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona (January 30).
Matthew Bell (GB). Age: 21. Lives: Barningham nr Richmond, North Yorkshire, England:
Spa 24Hr: Début. Spa History: Spa début October 2009 (Ginetta G20). Last race at Spa: October 2009, Ginetta races (5th, 7th, 3rd) . Other 24Hr races: None.
“I am really looking forward to my first 24 hour race. It’s going to be a challenge; modern 24 hour races are effectively long sprint races due to the reliability of the cars nowadays, so you have to push yourself as a driver and make sure you're on the limit every lap, day and night, for up to 2 and a half, sometimes 3 hours at a time for each stint. I'm very excited about racing at Spa. It’s my favorite circuit and the 24hrs is a fantastic event. I was involved behind the scenes with United Autosports’ first attempt at the Spa 24hrs last year.”
Johnny Herbert (GB). Age: 46. Born: Brentwood, Essex, England. Lives: Dorsington nr Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England:
Spa 24Hr: Début. Spa History: Début September 13 1986 (F3/8th). F1 (1989, 1991/7th, 1992/13th ret, 1993/5th, 1994/12th, 1995/7th, 1996, 1997/4th, 1998/10th, 1999/11th, 2000/8th), F3 (1986/87). Last race at Spa: September 12 2004 (LMS/1st). Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1990, 1991/1st, 1992/4th, 2001, 2002/2nd, 2003/2nd, 2004/2nd, 2007/9th). Dubai 24 Hours 2009 (45th/ 8th).
“To get the opportunity to do a 24 hour race again is wonderful and especially as it’s at Spa which has always been one of my favorite race tracks. I’ve never competed in the Spa 24 Hours so I’m really looking forward to that aspect as well as competing for United Autosports for the first time and reacquainting myself with Audi. I raced an Audi sports-prototype for a number of years. I attended last year’s race for TV and it was good to see my old F1 buddies Mark, Stefan and Eddie all driving again. They did brilliantly well and it’s an absolute privilege for me now to be involved and joining up with these guys. On my first test for United Autosports at Snetterton, I sampled the team’s Audi R8 LMS for the very first time and it was just like driving and sitting in my favorite armchair – so smooth and easy to drive and with such nice power delivery. I’m very much looking forward to Spa.”
Richard Meins (GB). Age: 56. Born: Beckenham, Kent, England. Lives: Stanley, Hong Kong:
Spa 24Hr: Début. Spa History: Début 1999 (National Saloons). 2006 1st & 3rd Grand Prix Masters (Surtees TS19), 2006 2nd World Sportscar Masters (Lola T70), 2nd (Ford GT40), 2007 4th Grand Prix Masters (McLaren M23), 2008 2nd Masters Sportscars (Lola T70), 5th Historic Motor Racing News U2TC (Mini Cooper). Last race at Spa: September 24-26 2010, 3rd Spa 6Hrs Endurance (Ford GT40). Other 24Hr races: Nürburgring (2004/5/6). BritCar (Silverstone, GB).
“I am delighted to be racing for United Autosports again and aiming for a good result at Spa after my Zhuhai and Macau disappointments. I know the Audi R8 LMS is up to the job and the team now have an established track record, especially after their strong performance at Spa last year. All the elements are there for success. The Spa 24 Hours is one of Europe's great races and one I have very much wanted to add to my racing C.V. and to have the opportunity to drive for United Autosports again partnered with drivers of such a high caliber in a seriously competitive car as the Audi R8 LMS means it will be a very special experience.”
Henri Richard (F). Age: 52. Born: Paris, France. Lives: Los Altos Hills, California, USA:
Spa 24Hr: Début. Spa History: None. Spa début 2011 Spa 24 Hours. Last race at Spa: None. Other 24Hr races: Daytona 24 Hours (2010, 2011).
"After a successful maiden race at Zhuhai last November, I cannot wait to get back in to the Audi R8 LMS with United Autosports. To do it on the unique Spa Francorchamps race track is a dream. The Audi and the team have proven already that they are solid contenders to win this race and I am looking forward to helping United Autosports take the top spot on the podium this year. I have never raced at Spa and approach this track with much respect and anticipation.”
Zak Brown (USA). Chairman & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
“Johnny [Herbert] needs absolutely no introduction to race fans, especially those in Europe where he remains unbelievably popular. He joins fellow Grand Prix greats Mark Blundell, Eddie Cheever and Stefan Johansson in our Spa team bristling with experience. Henri [Richard] and Richard [Meins] return to our team after outings with us in the Far East last November and like Johnny, are excited about making their Spa 24 race débuts in potentially a race-winning car. Meanwhile Matt [Bell] will make his 24 hour race début with us. Richard [Dean] and I are very excited about Matt’s potential and we’re certain that he’ll rise to the challenge the Spa race offers.”
“I have known Johnny [Herbert] since we were 13 and racing karts together – I didn’t get the chance to beat him too often – just the once I recall over a 6 year period! So the opportunity to have him on our side rather than racing against us is a massive relief. If you talk to anybody who has worked with Johnny, or raced in the same team as him, they will tell you he is probably the most naturally talented driver they have ever seen. Adding a British former GP winner to the United Autosports Spa driver line-up underlines our serious desire to improve on our 2010 performance at Spa.
“I am delighted to welcome back Richard [Meins] and Henri [Richard] in to our team. They drove together for United Autosports in the Zhuhai Intercontinental Le Mans Cup last November and were immediately on the pace and worked well with the team. They both have 24 hour race experience and so add strength to our line-up.
“Matt [Bell] is a very exciting prospect. This marks his first 24 hour race but he is intelligent, fit and very fast. I am not concerned whatsoever about his lack of Spa experience as Matt – he will race there in the British GT Championship three weeks before the 24 hour race. He is part of the long term future of this team and I am sure it will become evident why Zak and I rate him so highly.”
United Autosports continues hectic testing schedule in England then Belgium
Since the Avon Tyres British GT Championship Media Days at Silverstone earlier this month, the Anglo-American team has continued its hectic testing program.
Its three-car Audi R8 LMS sports car team has clocked up mileage at Snetterton (March 10) and Rockingham (March 14-15) with BGT “regulars” Matt Bell, John Bintcliffe, Michael Guasch and Jay Palmer – plus latest Spa signing Herbert – all involved. Later this week the Leeds-based team heads to Oulton Park before making the trip to Spa-Francorchamps.
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
“Lots of laps in every condition possible including fog so basically everything we expect the British series to throw at us during the course of the season! We’ve got two days booked at Oulton Park later this week for the BGT team to continue our pre-season work at the venue which hosts the opening two rounds of the BGT at Easter. Then we go to Spa to combine both the BGT team and some members of our Spa 24 Hour line-up. And like Zak says, watch this space for exciting driver news next month!”
Created in 2009, United Autosports is co-owned by American Zak Brown and Briton Richard Dean, both successful entrepreneurs and international race car drivers. The unique Anglo-American racing team fields GT3 class Audi R8 LMS sports cars from its United Kingdom headquarters in Leeds. It also races a fleet of “Legends of Motorsports” historic racing cars from its US facility in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2011, the team competes in full-seasons of FIA GT3 European Championship, Avon Tyres British GT Championship and the “Legends of Motorsports” series. It will additionally contest selected GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series events, the 24 Hours of Spa (Belgium) and Macau GT Cup race (China).
Audi R8 LMS
V10 5.2-liter engine, 4 valves per cylinder, petrol direct injection, 523 PS, 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, Dunlop (for FIA & Spa 24Hr) and Avon (for BGT) radial tires. Start weight TBA. Limitation at 8500rpm for every gear. Developed by Audi Sport with cooperation from quattro GmbH. Won seven championships across Europe in 2009-2010 plus Spa 24 Hours class victory in début 2009 season and Nürburgring 24 Hours class victories in 2009-2010 and scoring a total 64 victories.
* Comprehensive Bell, Herbert, Meins & Richard biographies plus team & car profiles are available on the United Autosports website http://www.unitedautosports.com/
* Johnny Herbert photographs can be downloaded at www.flickr.com/unitedautosports/sets
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