- Anglo-American team go down fighting on all fronts in Silverstone finale
- United start two cars from second row but Safety Car period ruins perfect strategy
- Third UA Audi of Brown & Osborne has likely win snatched when 35secs clear
- Brown shines at the front and defends robustly in one-off BGT return
Drama and action aplenty in the 10th and final round of the British GT Championship at Silverstone (GB) yesterday (October 8) which saw a United Autosports Audi dominate over half of a two-hour race and the Anglo-American team's "sister" R8 LMS of Matt Bell (GB) and Mike Guasch (USA) battling for the championship "crown".
Bell and Guasch went down fighting with a win or bust mentality. The #23 Audi ran in the top-four in the early stages but ultimately placed 16th (22nd overall). A collision with 24mins remaining necessitating a 9.5mins pit-stop for repairs costing them any hopes of claiming the championship "crown" on their first attempt.
While Matt and Mike were unable to add to their impressive eight top-10 finishes of the season, their main championship rivals Jim Geddie/Glynn Geddie finished third depriving the United Autosports team of its first championship title success.
But United Autosports certainly left its mark on this year's BGT – none more so than in yesterday's two-hour race – and not merely for just missing out narrowly on title honors at the final hurdle.
For while United Autosports' regular #24 Teknavo Audi BGT entry of John Bintcliffe (GB)/Jay Palmer (GB) recorded 14th place, a third UA R8 LMS of Zak Brown (USA) and Joe Osborne (GB) placed sixth around Silverstone's 3.66-mile Grand Prix track – marking the first three-car UA entry on a BGT grid which numbered 30 for the final race of 2011.
For Brown, it was his first BGT race since the 2010 season opening Easter races at Oulton Park – United Autosports' first-ever races – while Osborne was actually making his "proper" BGT debut. Joe raced a Ginetta G50Z in the invitational class (to GT3 spec) in 2009 in the series, starting from pole and winning both races at Rockingham.
A mid-distance Safety Car period with the #29 Draper Tools R8 LMS an impressive 36secs ahead of the field cost the Brown/Osborne Audi a likely top-three finish having led laps 2-37 in the 54-lap race. Brown robustly defended the lead after the compulsory pit-stops, banging wheels at times, and keeping spectators enthralled.
Contesting its first full season in BGT after the formation of the Leeds-based outfit just 20 months ago, United Autosports scored the first British GT Championship race win for the Audi R8 LMS sports car.
Bell and Guasch led the championship from rounds three to eight in their #23 Molecule R8 LMS and posted just one retirement in their V10-engined Audi due to accident damage.
Avon Tyres British GT Championship (final positions after 10 races):
1 Geddie/Geddie, 144-points
10 Matt Bell & Mike Guasch, 110.5pts
23 John Bintcliffe & Jay Palmer, 23pts
Final two FIA GT3 European Championship races, Zandvoort (Netherlands), October 15-16 . . . Macau GT Cup (China), November 20...
Race (duration 120mins)
Qualifying: 3rd #29 Osborne, 2m 4.166; 4th #23 Bell, 2m 4.253s; 15th #24 Palmer, 2m 7.600s. Weather: Dry, cool, overcast.
Race Result: 6th (#29) +56.941s P1; 14th (#24) -1 lap; 16th / 22nd overall (#23) -4 laps. Weather: Dry, cool, overcast.
Championship leaders Jim Geddie/Glynn Geddie (#10 Ferrari 458 Italia) lined-up on the fifth row with Duncan Cameron/ Matt Griffin (#21 Ferrari 458 Italia), placed second in the series standings, on the third row – Bell/Guasch starting the final race 11pts and 3pts respectively behind their rivals.
The three United Autosports Audi R8 LMS sports cars of Osborne, Guasch and Palmer lined-up third, fourth and 15th – the latter's #24 Teknavo Audi rebuilt following its hard hit against the wall at Becketts Corner in Friday's opening practice.
Osborne moved into second place at Becketts on the opening lap and swept into the lead at Vale on lap two while Guasch ran sixth in the opening phase, Palmer dropping to 18th after contact with the #3 Ferrari.
Sixth-placed Guasch had both title rivals directly behind, the #21 & #10 Ferraris with 15mins gone, the American slipping to ninth 30mins in to the race while Osborne increased his lead advantage to five seconds.
Guasch spun down to 10th place after 37mins while attempting to lap a back marker as Palmer made a precautionary one-minute pit-stop from 17th on 41mins with a handling issue – Osborne now 20secs to the good at the front.
Mike handed over the #23 Audi to Bell on 55mins moments before a Safety Car period negated Osborne's very impressive 36secs lead advantage, Joe pitting to Brown during the caution, the race resuming with 43mins to run with Brown, Bell and Bintcliffe placed first, 10th and 16th.
Brown slipped to third while Bell moved up to seventh with 30mins left – Zak, driving aggressively and in a determined fashion, ultimately succumbed to the Bell/Guasch title rival #10 Ferrari and dropped to fifth as Bintcliffe moved up the order.
However the BGT title disappeared completely for the #23 Audi when, with 24mins to run, Bell and the sixth-placed #22 Mercedes contacted resulting in Matt heading to the pits for repairs which cost four laps – a bitter close to a season that has seen the #23 Audi bidding for race honors all year.
#23 Molecule – Audi R8 LMS
Matt Bell (GB). Age: 21. Born: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, T&W. Lives: Barningham, N. Yorks, England:
"It is disappointing going into a race where you are in championship title contention only to miss out. Unfortunately we didn't quite get the optimum set-up for the race, Mike had a problem during his stint and then I went for a move which was probably a little ambitious and made contact with another car damaging the Audi. I pitted and the crew did a great job. The car wasn't right when I went back out, there was still some damage to the rear but it was a brilliant effort by the guys. We've had a great year. We led the championship for most of the year. The Audi R8 LMS car is in its third year of racing while the Ferrari 458, for example, has come in this season and raised the bar. The team has done a great, professional job and I can't thank Richard and Zak enough for giving me this opportunity. So a disappointing end to what was a good year."
Michael Guasch (USA). Age: 53. Born: Palo Alto, California. Lives: Walnut Creek, California, USA:
"I am disappointed but I am also elated that the season is over, it's been a long year. Of course I'm disappointed we are not champions but it's a very tough series. The guys who won the championship deserved it – they did a fabulous job. My stint was difficult. I lost a couple of places at the start because I was slow away – I heard red, red, red over my radio and I thought the start had been aborted – things are a little different Stateside. Then there were four of us lapping a GT4 car. I was in the back and he cut in on me and I spun. I had good pace but not great pace. The Audi was very touchy today, a handful. It was a great learning year, much better than last year in the FIA for me and I really enjoyed running in Britain and the series. We were right in the middle of the title fight and I am proud of that."
#24 Teknavo – Audi R8 LMS
John Bintcliffe (GB). Age: 45. Born: Bridlington, E. Yorks. Lives: Harrogate, N. Yorkshire, England.
"I was too apprehensive in qualifying after my accident in practice and that continued into the race, only towards the end did I get into the groove. Unfortunately Jay stopped in the wrong place at the pit-stop costing us a lot of time as the team re-positioned the car. I had a good battle with a Ferrari. I've really enjoyed the season. I am very grateful to United Autosports, they've done a great job and it's not always been easy. I am thankful to Jay for getting me to drive with him this year."
Jay Palmer (GB). Age: 38. Born: Harrogate. Lives: Harrogate & London, England / Barbados.
"I didn't get a run in the car until this morning because of John's off on Friday morning so that was a set back. I had an okay start, managed to make up a couple of places and then had an altercation with Hector Lester and after that the Audi didn't feel quite right – it was an uphill struggle from there. I pitted because I thought I had a flat tire but it was just a lot of 'pick-up' on the tires. The season has been a big learning curve – enjoyable and disappointing in parts."
#29 Draper Tools – Audi R8 LMS
Joe Osborne (GB). Age: 22. Born: Bedford, GB. Lives: Olney, Buckinghamshire, GB:
"I only did a couple of 'flying' laps in practice and so went into qualifying a bit cold but hooked up a good lap. I started P3, was second by the first lap, then into the lead a lap later and just played it safe lapping traffic. Our strategy was working superbly and was eking out a nice lead so if the Safety Car hadn't have come out, we would have been on for a good result. Zak drove an awesome race and was super aggressive. Thanks United Autosports for putting me in the third car and Draper Tools for coming along for the Silverstone weekend."
Zak Brown (USA). Age: 39. Born: Los Angeles, California, USA. Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA:
"That was one of the more enjoyable races of the year. Had the Safety Car not come out our strategy would have been perfect – we had the chance to win. Joe did fantastically well, he just walked away with it until the Safety Car. I held onto the lead for a while before some really fun battles with a Porsche and then Ferrari – it was exciting from inside the car! We were banging wheels at times. Matt and Mike, plus the team, did a great job all year having led the championship for most of the year but for a couple of mistakes in the last two races, would have taken the title. I'm very proud of our team – to be fighting for a championship title in only our second year of competition and having won our first race, there can be no complaints from me. It was also good for our sponsor guests to witness us running competitively."
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
"It's been a typical United Autosports weekend: Lots of hard work, heartache, some highs and some lows! We were in contention until the last 30mins of the last race but it didn't quite work out. But the effort and professionalism from the entire team was absolutely first class and I'm extremely proud of every member. We've overcome a crashed car resulting in long repairs, long hours, a great qualifying performance and we were very competitive in the race. Matt tried to get us back in to contention – something he's often done successfully this year. To have Joe lead the race from the start and pull out a lead that was really healthy and Zak put in a very strong drive to defend our position against top quality drivers. We have had a great year and somewhat surprisingly considering the circumstances of not winning the title, I can't wait for next year! I would love to come back and do the British GT Championship again. We led the championship for most of the year and have been competitive at every race. I am not sure there has been a more competitive season. We are proud in our second season to have been up there in contention. We could have won it, I think we should have won it, but they are all good experiences but congratulations to the Geddies. We have the foundations of a championship winning team which we can build on for the future."
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 October 9, 2011
- Bell, Bintcliffe, Guasch & Palmer biographies plus team & car profiles are available on the United Autosports website http://www.unitedautosports.com/
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