- Bell & Guasch remain in title hunt after storming recovery in three-hour Donington race that ends in near darkness
- Bintcliffe & Palmer non-start race after accident in qualifying
Matt Bell (GB) and Mike Guasch (USA) will start the 10th and final round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship next month in "full attack" mode for the Anglo-American United Autosports team.
Bell and Guasch, who had led the championship from rounds three to eight, salvaged seventh place in their #23 Molecule Audi R8 LMS in today’s (September 25) "GT500" three-hour race at Donington Park (GB).
Their eighth top-10 result of the season came after a storming fight back following an early collision dropped the duo to the tail of the field.
They go in to the two-hour finalé at Silverstone (October 8) 11-points off the championship lead but with 37.5pts up for grabs for the race winners.
Qualifying the previous day had seen the top-10 covered by one-second, Bell having to settle for a second row start after briefly holding provisional pole-position to end just 0.133secs off "pole".
John Bintcliffe (GB) in the "sister" R8 LMS set the eighth fastest time but went off at very high-speed at McLeans Corner on his fifth lap incurring right rear bodywork damage.
The #24 Teknavo Audi was recovered to the pits during a later red flag stoppage but was unable to take any further part in the session. While Bintcliffe’s early time only dropped him to 13th fastest, close inspection of the car post qualifying revealed the heavy impact had caused chassis damage obliging the team to withdraw the car from the race.
Richard Dean and other team members fly to Atlanta (USA) on Wednesday to oversee United Autosports’ first foray in the American Le Mans Series when it contests the annual Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta next Saturday.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship (after nine rounds):
1 Geddie/Geddie, 121.5-points
2 Griffin/Cameron, 113.5pts
3 Matt Bell & Mike Guasch, 110.5pts
23 John Bintcliffe & Jay Palmer, 23pts
Upcoming . . .
American Le Mans Series debut at Road Atlanta (USA) on October 1 . . . Final round of the British GT Championship at Silverstone (England) on October 8 . . . final two FIA GT3 European Championship races, Zandvoort (Netherlands), October 15-16 . . . Macau GT Cup (China), November 20 . . .
Race (duration 180mins)
Qualifying: 4th #23 Bell, 1m 30.448s; 13th #24 Bintcliffe, 1m 32.050s. Weather: Dry, overcast.
Race Result: 7th (#23) -1 lap P1; Did Not Start (#24) – accident damage from qualifying. Weather: Wet, overcast, damp, drying, dry.
Three mandatory pit-stops of 109 seconds minimum duration during which a driver-change must take place with the "two-driver" teams running a maximum drive time of 100 minutes was the order of the day in the "GT500" around the 2.4873-mile "Grand Prix" course.
Earlier rain showers had left the track wet so the 23-car field began on wet tires – despite the rain having stopped – Guasch slipping a place to fifth after the green light at Turn 1 (Redgate) then to sixth after 15mins just ahead of title rivals Jim Geddie/Glynn Geddie (#10 Ferrari).
But with less than 30mins gone and with a drying "line" appearing, Guasch and the fifth placed #21 Ferrari collided at the Old Hairpin, the American immediately pitting with front bodywork damage.
Guasch rejoined in last place having lost two vital laps before handing over to Bell who took on "slick" tires and fuel on 45mins. A series of fast laps as the track continued to dry brought the #23 Audi up to 18th at one-third distance – but 12 places behind their main title rivals – Matt the fastest man on track.
The race resumed after the first safety car period (70mins) with Bell ninth, after a number of cars decided to pit during the caution, the hard-charging Briton gaining a further three places by mid-distance.
Bell pitted from fourth place on 96mins with Guasch resuming 10th after the team’s second compulsory stop moments before a second full course caution. A solid stint from the American saw him up to fourth when he made a third and final scheduled pit-stop with 49mins remaining, Bell resuming ninth and once again setting a string of fastest race laps – ultimately clocking the second fastest lap of the race.
A final safety car period with 15mins remaining allowed Bell to get within 8.684secs of sixth place but it was seventh for the #23 Audi at the checker. The #21 Ferrari (Griffin/Cameron) placed third in the race and thus demote Bell/Guasch a place to third in the championship standings with the similar 458 Italia of Geddie/Geddie (#10 Ferrari) recording fifth place to retain the title race lead.
#23 Molecule – Audi R8 LMS
Matt Bell (GB). Age: 21. Born: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, T&W. Lives: Barningham, N. Yorks, England:
"I was disappointed with my qualifying performance – I made a mistake on my best lap costing at least a tenth pushing too hard but importantly we had a good car for the race and started from row two. Unfortunately Mike made a small mistake in the wet and hit another car which put the hood up on the car so he had to pit for repairs. After that, it was just a case of pushing as hard as I could and regaining as many places as possible. Today has probably the hardest drive I have ever had – it was pretty difficult with some heart in mouth moments trying to overtake as the car was not right after the collision. Our result leaves Mike and I with a mountain to climb due to our main competition finishing ahead of us."
Michael Guasch (USA). Age: 53. Born: Palo Alto, California. Lives: Walnut Creek, California, USA:
"Saturday was a challenge in that we needed to change the set-up between practice. Taking off the ‘dive planes’ set me back – Matt was able to adapt more quickly. I started the race in the rain on wets and had good pace. I braked a little late and ran up the back of the Ferrari, my front right corner into his rear left spinning him around. The hood flew up so I went straight to the pits and the guys put it back together the best they could in the minimum amount of time. Our pace was there today, we were just unfortunate."
#24 Teknavo – Audi R8 LMS
John Bintcliffe (GB). Age: 45. Born: Bridlington, E. Yorks. Lives: Harrogate, N. Yorkshire, England.
"I caught the curb on the inside at McLeans [corner] and pivoted around at high-speed. The gravel trap didn’t take any speed off and I impacted the small tire wall positioned just in front of the concrete barrier very hard. It was a big impact. I am gutted for Jay and the team. It was my first run on new tires and it was looking to be a quicker lap despite a couple of mistakes earlier in that lap."
Jay Palmer (GB). Age: 38. Born: Harrogate. Lives: Harrogate & London, England / Barbados.
"Without stating the obvious, it was hugely disappointing not to start the race – an event that should have suited the Audi perfectly in terms of the longer duration. Our R8 LMS had great balance in the opening practice but I struggled in the second one after we’d been forced to make changes to the car and I had an off myself at McLeans in that session. We’d made further changes to the set-up for qualifying so it was difficult for John who was pushing very hard with a car that he didn’t know particularly well in that set-up."
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
"We received a significant setback on Saturday morning between the two opening practice sessions when the scrutineers informed us that Audi Sport’s ‘endurance’ kit, featuring front ‘dive’ planes, were not eligible. We’d ran them in the Spa 24 Hours but apparently the kit was homologated for Blancpain but not FIA rules. That put us on the back foot as we’d ran both cars in this configuration at Snetterton on Thursday and all the drivers were delighted with the handling of the Audi. Having reverted back to the original [BGT] set-up, we then suffered a major blow when John [Bintcliffe] had an off early in qualifying which we subsequently found had damaged the chassis so we had to withdraw the car. Then in the race, Mike unfortunately contacted with a Ferrari. From that point, it was a recovery drive. Matt drove fantastically well – he was good in traffic, really aggressive and managed to pull a lap back which shows you what could have been. Our pit-stops were perfect, the team were spot on.."
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, 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, Avon radial tires. Start weight 1,305kg. 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.
Date of issue: Sunday September 25, 2011
* Bell, Bintcliffe, Guasch & Palmer biographies plus team & car profiles are available on the United Autosports website http://www.unitedautosports.com/
* A comprehensive library of Editorial Copyright Free photographs can be downloaded at www.flickr.com/unitedautosports/sets
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