· British duo John Bintcliffe & Jay Palmer finish eighth in difficult conditions
United Autosports’ duo Matt Bell (GB) and Mike Guasch (USA) continue to lead the Avon Tyres British GT Championship despite being unceremoniously bundled out of the fourth round of the series at Brands Hatch (England) today (Sunday June 19).
Previous round Snetterton race winners Bell and Guasch looked to build on their 24.5-point series lead going in to the two-hour race but the American, having spectacularly brought his #23 Molecule Audi R8 LMS up from a disappointing 12th place grid position to sixth in just over one lap of the 2.301-mile “Grand Prix” track, was assaulted by the #12 Ferrari at Druids Hairpin on lap two. The Audi R8 LMS, hit from behind, was too badly damaged for the American to continue.
Meanwhile John Bintcliffe (GB) and Jay Palmer (GB) will arrive for the next rounds at Spa-Francorchamps placed 11th in the 10-race series. The British duo recorded a fine eighth – in only their fourth race in the #24 Teknavo Audi – in the 120-minute race featuring changeable weather and track conditions and which saw the weight ballast for the Audi R8 LMS increased by 10kg.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship (after four rounds):1 Matt Bell & Mike Guasch, 70.5-points
2 Gedie/Gedie, 63.5pts
3 Lester/Simonsen, 58.5pts
11 John Bintcliffe & Jay Palmer, 21pts
Luyendyk & Johansson Shake Down New Audi R8 LMS At Snetterton
Double Indianapolis 500 race winner Arie Luyendyk (NL) and former Grand Prix and IndyCar driver Stefan Johansson (SE) “shook down” the brand new Bell/Guasch Audi at Rockingham (England) last Wednesday. The duo, who both drive for United Autosports in the Total 24 Hours of Spa (July 30-31), completed over 100-laps. The Audi was then on display at a Draper Tools “Meet the Team” event the following day (Thursday) for staff and customers of the team’s partner in Southampton along with United Autosports’ FIA GT3 European Championship driver Joe Osborne who also entertained Draper guests at Brands today.
Upcoming . . .The fifth & sixth rounds of the FIA GT3 European Championship at Navarra (Spain) on July 2-3. Rounds five and six of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship staged at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) on July 8-9.
Race (duration 120mins)Qualifying: 12th #23 Bell, 1m 28.596s; 13th #24 Bintcliffe, 1m 28.610s. Weather: Dry, bright.
Race Result: 8th (#24), +1 lap. Retired (#23). Weather: Damp/cloudy, rain/wet, sun/drying.
Guasch immediately made up five places on his grid position to complete the opening lap on a damp track in seventh and having overtaken the #12 Ferrari for sixth place on lap two, was tagged by the same car at Druids Hairpin. The American’s Audi ended up in the barriers with substantial front and rear bodywork damage.
Palmer settled into a steady rhythm as the track began to dry, Jay placed 10th with 15mins on the clock – 50secs off the lead. Palmer remained 10th on 30mins – 71secs down. Heavy rain began to fall minutes later with the Safety Car deployed on 40mins to recover stranded cars with Palmer placed a praiseworthy eighth.
Palmer, who had driven brilliantly considering he had not previously raced on the Brands GP circuit, made his compulsory pit-stop to hand over to Bintcliffe as the race re-started with 70mins to run but the former Audi Sport UK “factory” British Touring Car Championship race winner spun down to 18th place in the difficult conditions at the top of Paddock Hill on his “out lap”.
With an hour to run, Bintcliffe was 11th but was up to seventh place 10mins later. The sun appeared for the last 30mins, the track drying allowing John to set a string of personal fastest laps although Bintcliffe slipped one place to eighth on the penultimate lap as the #11 Ferrari came past on the pit straight.
Matt Bell (GB). Age: 21. Born: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, T&W. Lives: Barningham, N. Yorks, England:“I’d only driven here once before, in a Ginetta, two years ago. Practice was red flag interrupted and traffic a problem but was P5 in the final practice heading into qualifying so 12th in ‘qually’ was disappointing. We could have and should have been in the top-six but I struggled to get in a clear lap. The track is narrow with few overtaking opportunities so the race was always going to be difficult but hadn’t expected it to be over so quickly! Today was a great shame. We’ll just have to pick ourselves up and move on to the next races at Spa.”
Michael Guasch (USA). Age: 53. Born: Palo Alto, California. Lives: Walnut Creek, California, USA:“I’d previous practice experience in a Ginetta around the ‘Indy’ track but the GP section was daunting to begin with but I steadily got to grips with it. Qualifying down in 12th always meant it would be a battle in the race. It had rained before the race but we decided to start on slicks. I made a number of passes but going into Druids for only the second time, I was on the outside, but the car on the inside just took me out – I can only assume he didn’t see me. The heavy impact shoved me into the barriers and pretty much destroyed the car. I went to the Medical Center but got the all clear. Amazingly we still lead the series.”
John Bintcliffe (GB). Age: 45. Born: Bridlington, E. Yorks. Lives: Harrogate, N. Yorkshire, England.“I went in to qualifying with less than four competitive ‘flying’ laps under my belt from practice after a 15 year break from racing at Brands. Qualifying just outside the top-10 was frustrating but that was down to my lack of laps in the Audi. I spun at Paddock on my out lap having just taken over from Jay – I was on slicks, the track was wet and although I felt I was taking it very gently, the car rotated. For the next four laps I took things very steady and let the car come to me. The weather played a big part today but apart from my embarrassing spin, we dealt with everything that was thrown at us.”
Jay Palmer (GB). Age: 38. Born: Harrogate. Lives: Harrogate & London, England / Barbados:“The start of the race was fraught but I was intent on keeping out of trouble. I held position and through attrition moved up some places before pitting after the Safety Car period. That was an issue in itself due to a very slow GT4 class Aston Martin trundling around which cost us a lot of time and was most annoying. But taking everything in to account, it was a pleasing result and another race where we’ve claimed some points.”
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:“Qualifying was always going to be ‘busy’ with 31 cars on the track but it was the same for everyone. Matt was unlucky on his new tire run with traffic as was John so we never had the opportunity to show the true pace of the R8 LMS which had a good balance. So we needed luck going into the race and to keep out of trouble but we didn’t get it. The Ferrari turned Mike around and out of the race almost destroying our brand new Audi R8 LMS in the process. Jay and John ran a clean race but unfortunately Jay frustratingly lost time behind a GT4 car that decided to go very slowly during the Safety Car phase which effectively lost the #24 Audi half a lap. We’re still leading the series but now by only seven points.”
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).
V10 5.2-liter engine, 4 valves per cylinder, petrol direct injection, 365-412 kW (496-560 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 radial tires. Start weight 1,300kg. 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.
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