• Stellar 12-driver line-up for United Autosports' first-ever three-car Audi entry
• United's 2010 Spa "stars" Blundell, Cheever & Johansson return for more
• Herbert & Luyendyk make United Autosports débuts
• Bell, Herbert, Luyendyk, Meins & Richard making 24 Hours of Spa débuts
• Second 24 Hour race of the year for Anglo-American team
United Autosports enters a three-car line-up of Audi R8 LMS sports cars for the first time in the Anglo-American team's 16-month race history bidding for top honors in the Total 12 Hours of Spa in Belgium (July 30-31).
Having led the GT3 class and ultimately achieved third and fourth places in its maiden 24 hour race in last year's corresponding event, United Autosports heads to the beautiful Ardennes region of Belgium again aiming for outright race glory on the occasion.
Team Co-Owners Zak Brown (USA) and Richard Dean (GB) have enticed a truly awesome driver line-up. Former 24 Hour of Le Mans race winners Mark Blundell (GB) and Stefan Johansson (SE) plus 1998 Indianapolis 500 race winner, Eddie Cheever (USA), three former Formula One "pilots" who raced for United Autosports at Spa last year, are joined by another Le Mans race and F1 Grand Prix winner, Johnny Herbert (GB), plus double Indy 500 race winner Arie Luyendyk (NL). The race marks not only the team début for Herbert and Luyendyk but their Spa 24 Hour débuts and for Arie, who won the 1998 24 Hours of Daytona, his first-ever race on the daunting 4.35-mile Spa-Francorchamps track. Blundell, Cheever, Herbert, Johansson and Luyendyk have contested over 50 24 hour races between them.
Brown is joined in the Spa squad for a second consecutive year by fellow FIA GT3 European Championship regular Mark Patterson (USA), the American duo have partnered Blundell and Martin Brundle (GB) to fourth place in United Autosports' second twice-around-the-clock race in the 24 Hours of Daytona (Jan 29-30) – a mere 3.752secs behind the winner in the 2,563.2-mile race. Matt Bell (GB) who, like Brown and Patterson, is contesting the FIA series for a second consecutive year in the V10-engined Audi R8 LMS, makes his 24 Hours of Spa début as do American Le Mans Series regular Henri Richard (USA) and Hong Kong-based businessman Richard Meins (GB). Henri Richard makes his second appearance for United Autosports having finished third in class in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup event at Zhuhai (China) last November.
Meins, who has contested 24 hour races at the Nürburgring (D) and Silverstone (GB), drove for the team in the same Zhuhai race and also at Macau. He has raced regularly at Spa in a variety of machinery including saloon and historic F1 and sports cars – unlike Spa "rookie" Henri Richard who has competed in the Rolex 24 for the past two years.
Another Hong Kong-based businessman, Alain Li (F), returns to United Autosports having finished fourth in class at Spa and Zhuhai with them last year for his second 24 hour race while Dean himself returns to the cockpit for his one and only scheduled race of the season.
Team Co-Owner Dean, himself an ex-Formula 3000 driver with 24 hour race experience in the WillHire and BritCar races in his native England plus at the Nürburgring, Le Mans, Spa, Mondello Park (IRL), Daytona and Dubai, supervises the logistics, planning and organization of the team's FIA and British GT Championship programs, attending every test and race in his role of Team Director. It is the 63rd running of the 24 Hours of Spa first staged in 1924 and is the third round of the new Blancpain Endurance Series exclusively for GT3 and GT4 cars. United Autosports competes for outright honors as well as a top placing in the GT3 Pro-Am Cup.
2011 Total 24 Hours of Spa United Autosports – Audi R8 LMS: #11 Matt Bell (GB) / Mark Blundell (GB) / Eddie Cheever (USA) / Mark Patterson (USA) #12 Alain Li (F) / Arie Luyendyk (NL) / Richard Meins (GB) / Henri Richard (F) #23 Zak Brown (USA) / Richard Dean (GB) / Johnny Herbert (GB) / Stefan Johansson (SE) Provisional Timetable: Thursday July 28 – 0900-1030 Practice 1; 1415-1545 Pre-Qualifying; 1900-2135 & 2235-2335 Qualifying Saturday July 30 – 0905-0925 Warm-up; 1600 24 Hour Race starts
* All times are "local"
2010 Total 24 Hours of Spa Formguide: #67 Audi R8 LMS – Emil Assentato / Alain Li / Mark Patterson / Stefan Johansson Qualified: 21st overall / 13th GT3. Race: 10th/4th #68 Audi R8 LMS – Mark Blundell / Zak Brown / Eddie Cheever / Richard Dean Qualified: 16th/10th. Race: 9th/3rd #11 Audi R8 LMS – Matt Bell / Mark Blundell / Eddie Cheever / Mark Patterson 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: July 9-10 2011, British GT Championship (6th/4th). Other 24Hr races: None.
"I'm very excited as there's a lot for me to look forward to; my first 24 hour race, it's my favorite circuit and of course racing alongside four ex-F1 drivers plus a two-time Indy 500 winner! The competition will be incredibly tough with the likes of Audi Sport 'factory' drivers participating this year but I'm relishing the chance to get in amongst some of the best drivers in the world. The team did a fantastic job to achieve a podium in 2010 and if it hadn't been for a power steering issue late on, there was a strong chance of UA winning. If we can have a trouble free race there is a good chance we can emulate the success of last year."
Mark Blundell (GB). Age: 45. Born: Barnet, England. Lives: Royston, England: Spa 24Hr: 2010 9th/3rd (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Début May 16 1987 (F3000/2nd). F3000 (1987-89 – 1987/2nd), F1 (1991-95 – 91 scored first-ever F1 point, 94/5th, 95/5th), sports cars (1989/3rd). Last race at Spa: July 31-August 1 2010, Spa 24 Hours (9th/3rd). Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1989, 1990, 1992/1st, 1995/4th, 2001, 2002, 2003/2nd). Daytona (2011/4th [United Autosports Riley-Ford]). Nürburgring (2011).
"It's great for me to return to Spa with United Autosports again. The team and I know that this race will be tougher than last year as the competition is even stronger but I am confident that the team combined with the Audi R8 LMS are a match for anyone. Rest assured myself and the other drivers will need to work hard for a top result."
Eddie Cheever (USA). Age: 53. Born: Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Lives: Indianapolis, USA: Spa 24Hr: 2010 9th/3rd (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Spa début May 22 1983 F1/3rd, F1 (1983, 85-89 – 1983/3rd, 1987/4th, 1988/6th), GpC (1986/5th, 1987/4th. Last race at Spa: July 31-August 1 2010, Spa 24 Hours (9th/3rd). Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1980/19th, 1981/8th, 1986/24th, 1987/5th). Daytona (2006/17th, 2007/32nd).
"Spa is one of my favorite circuits and returning with United Autosports after last years third place in GT3 makes it all the more interesting. The team's calm and efficient race execution of its first Spa 24hrs surprised a lot of people, including myself. Now that we all know what to expect we can just drive and get on with it. And hopefully all the effort will translate into an outright win."
Mark Patterson (USA). Age:59. Born: Port Elizabeth, S Africa. Lives: Bronxville, N.Y., USA: Spa 24Hr: 2009 17th o/a (Ferrari 430 GT3); 2010 10th/4th (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Début 2001. Lamborghini Super Trophy (2001). Last race at Spa: July 31-August 1 2010, Spa 24 Hours (10th/4th). Other 24Hr races: Daytona (2004 38th/13th, 2005 23rd/14th, 2006/2nd, 2007/9th, 2008/6th, 2009/41st, 2010/7th, 2011/4th [United Autosports Riley-Ford]).
"There's nothing in race competition quite like a 24 hour race. There's nothing in race competition quite like Spa, a unique track nestled in Belgium's heavy, rolling green forests. Put them together and you've got something very special to look forward to. A podium this year is our ambition, having personally missed by a hair last year while our United Autosports 'sister' car made it on to the podium. This year's driver line-up is rock solid, the Audis are built for endurance racing and our support team is experienced at surviving days on end without sleep, so podium fever infests our team for sure."
#12 Audi R8 LMS – Alain Li / Arie Luyendyk / Richard Meins / Henri Richard Alain Li (F). Age: 51. Born: Caen, France. Lives: Hong Kong: Spa 24Hr: 2010 10th/4th (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Début 2004, Ferrari Challenge Series (2004-8). Last race at Spa: July 31-August 1 2010, Spa 24 Hours (10th/4th). Other 24Hr races: None.
"When I was a kid, Christmas was the day I looked forward to the most. But now that I can play with more expensive 'toys', the most special day of the year for me is over the Spa 24 Hours weekend. I am particularly looking forward to seeing the United Autosports team again and to share the Audi with my co-drivers Richard Meins, my Zhuhai partner Henri Richard and two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk. It's going to be a very tough race and another finish this year would be a fantastic achievement. It would be even sweeter if we can have a clean sweep of the podium!"
Arie Luyendyk (NL). Age: 57. Born: Sommelsdijk, The Netherlands. Lives: Fountain Hills, AZ, USA: Spa 24Hr: Début. Spa History: Début. Other 24Hr races: Daytona (1986/2nd, 1988/89/91/97 (all DNFs), 1998/1st, 1999/8th; Le Mans (1989/DNF).
"I have enjoyed testing the Audi R8 LMS. My first acquaintance of the sports car was 20 laps at Spa. I'd never been there before but it's without doubt one of the greatest tracks in the world and I honestly cannot wait to actually race there – what a circuit! I also did a test at Rockingham [England] in last month. I'm steadily getting the hang of what it takes to get the most out of the Audi. I'm ready and immensely looking forward to racing in a 24 hour race again – it's only been 12 years!"
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).
"Back to Spa and back in an Audi R8 LMS – a perfect mid-summer combination! I'm hoping for better luck than my last outing with United when the R8 LMS suffered a rare mechanical issue at Macau. We should be right on the pace at Spa and it's a buzz to be driving with an Indy 500 legend. Without stating the obvious, 24 hours is a long time and we won't win it in the first stint so the key is to adopt a calm approach, consistency and let the race come to us. It's a great field and it will no doubt be pretty busy on track so cool heads will be needed."
Henri Richard (F). Age: 53. 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).
"I'm really looking forward to making my Spa début and for that matter my European 24 hour race début with United Autosports. Racing at such a legendary and world famous place like Spa will be incredible although I will give it the utmost respect. Getting back into the Audi R8 LMS after Zhuhai last November will be fun as will working with the United Autosports team again. The guys did a great job at Spa last year and I'm hopeful we can take the top spot on the podium this year."
#23 Audi R8 LMS – Zak Brown / Richard Dean / Johnny Herbert / Stefan Johansson Zak Brown (USA). Age: 39. Born: Los Angeles, California, USA. Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA: Spa 24Hr: 2010 9th/3rd (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Opel Lotus Formula (1993/3rd). Last race at Spa: July 31-August 1 2010, Spa 24 Hours (9th/3rd). Other 24Hr races: BritCar (Silverstone, GB), Daytona (1997/8th, 1999, 2000, 2010/33rd o/a/20th, 2011/4th [United Autosports Riley-Ford]).
"Going back to Spa is without doubt the highlight of my year in GT racing. I love the track and the fact that it's a 24 hour race is just awesome. We've added a third Audi for this year's assault and have built on our impressive line-up of 'All Star' drivers. I'm very excited and confident United Autosports will once again make a statement in Spa!"
Richard Dean (GB). Age: 46. Born & Lives: Leeds, West Yorkshire, England: Spa 24Hr: 2010 9th/3rd (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Début August 29 1992/Ret (F3000). F3000 (1992), FIA GT (1997/24th/12th), British GT (1998/6th/2nd 1999/2nd). Last race at Spa: July 31-August 1 2010, Spa 24 Hours (9th/3rd). Other 24Hr races: WillHire (GB), BritCar (Silverstone, GB) 2006/2nd o/a / 1st in class), Nürburgring, Le Mans (2006/15th/1st, 2007/23rd/5th, 2009), Mondello Park (IRL), Daytona (2010/33rd/20th), Dubai.
"Spa is always a challenge for driver and team. This year we will run three cars so we will have to work hard and plan well to accommodate 12 drivers and what will amount to a team of almost 50 personnel. We are all highly motivated which creates a great atmosphere while all but one of our drivers and the majority of our pit crew are very experienced in 24 hour races. The team ethic will be the key to allowing me, as a driver, to concentrate on actually being a driver for the 24 hours. I haven't raced and have only done a handful of laps in the Audi R8 LMS this year but it's a great car to jump into and get comfortable with quickly. We have some true stars in our cars for 2011 with very impressive CV's! Not only am I hopeful that the combined experience of our driver line-up will bring results but I am looking forward to watching them work and drive with them. It is an opportunity of a lifetime as a driver to sit alongside these guys and see how they get the most out of a car and the team."
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). Nürburgring (2011).
"It will be my first race at Spa since September 2004 when Jamie Davies and I drove an Audi R8 sports-prototype to victory to win the Le Mans Series title. It's my all time favorite race track. Spa will mark my first race for United Autosports and first in a R8 LMS GT3 sports car. I'll also be driving with Stefan [Johansson] again after racing an R8 with him in the 2002 American Le Mans Series. I hope we can challenge for an overall win. We have a great package with a good team of drivers in each of three cars and with the R8 LMS drivability combined with its reliability I hope this brings us to the top spot."
Stefan Johansson (SE). Age: 54. Born: Växjö, Sweden. Lives: Los Angeles, California, USA: Spa 24Hr: 2010 10th/4th (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Début August 9 1981 (F2/14th). F1 (1983, 85-91 – 1986/3rd, 1987/2nd), F2 (1981-2 – pole-position 1982/F2), GpC (1982-4), 1,000km sports cars (1988/1st). Last race at Spa: July 31-August 1 2010, Spa 24 Hours (10th/4th). Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1983/6th, 1984, 1990, 1991/6th, 1992/5th, 1997/1st, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003/3rd, 2006, 2007, 2008). Daytona (2000 23rd, 2002 36th/13th, 2005/4th, 2006/22nd).
"I am very excited to be re-joining United Autosports for our second attempt at the Spa 24 Hours. We had a great run last year and hopefully we can improve on that this time with an extra year of experience. Zak & Richard have again managed to put together a great driver line-up. Meanwhile I loved driving the Audi R8 LMS, it's a great sports car, and I can't wait to get behind the wheel again."
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