§ Watts takes fantastic third in McLaren’s Macau début
§ Meins finishes in fine seventh after race-long battle in Audi R8 LMS
§ United Autosports scores first podium with McLaren in Macau and ends 2011 season on a high
Britain’s Danny Watts (Thornborough), brought the stunning GR Asia-sponsored McLaren MP4-12C GT3 home for a superb third place in Macau on Sunday in a race of attrition and confusion, while Richard Meins gained a place from his grid start to take the closest possible seventh in the United Autosports Audi A8 LMS.
Scheduled for 12 laps, the Star River – Windsor Arch Macau GT Cup race was abruptly halted on the third lap after a massive accident at Mandarin involving Frank Yu’s Ford GT, Eddie Yau (Porsche 911) and John Shen (Ferrari F430 GT) with Yuk Lung Siu spinning his Lamborghini Gallardo to avoid the mêlée. The whole crash had been set off by Akihiro Tsuzuki’s Audi, which had dumped oil on the track at Mandarin.
There was a lengthy delay of over an hour as the organisers cleared the wreckage but this gave the United Autosports team a chance to check the brakes and ABS issue on Watts’ GR Asia-sponsored McLaren.
To add to the confusion, the restart was originally scheduled for seven laps but as the cars moved away from the grid, the restart was run under the safety car for two laps with only five laps of racing under the green flags.
Italian Edoardo Mortara soared away in the factory Audi A8 LMS, just as he had before the stoppage, leaving Watts to argue over second with Japan’s Keita Sawa (Lamborghini LP-560). The pair fought tooth and nail over the narrow track and on the fifth lap, the McLaren was climbing all over the Lamborghini trying to find a way by.
Meanwhile Hong Kong-based Briton, Meins was having his own battle with Tomonobu Fujii (Aston Martin DBRS9) and Weng Sun Mok (Ferrari F458), the trio circulating the twisty street circuit bumper to bumper for the remaining laps.
Another accident on lap seven was narrowly averted after two spinners blocked the track but managed to get going again without being collected, as the leaders continued their relentless pace at the front.
With two laps remaining, Mortara continued stretching his lead while Sawa and Watts were comfortable in the podium positions. The British driver was a further 10 seconds ahead of fourth place Rodolfo Avila’s Porsche 911, ultimately giving the McLaren a great third place on its first visit to the Guai Circuit and Watts’ 10th anniversary race in Macau.
Meins held on for a superb seventh place, a mere 0.318 seconds behind his race-long rival, Mok, Richard having found that overtaking the Ferrari in the time remaining was just not possible, but still managed to set his fastest lap of the race in the process of hunting down the man in front.
It was an excellent result for the young United Autosports team to end the 2011 season, and the Leeds-based Anglo-American sportscar outfit now sets its sights on 2012 and the winter GT Endurance races in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bathurst.
Danny Watts (GB). Age 31. Born: Aylesbury, UK. Lives: Thornborough, nr Buckingham, GB
“I’m very happy with third for the first time here with the McLaren. We’ve learned a huge amount this weekend, developed it and moved it forward throughout the whole four days, so to get a podium on its début is just fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Every year the standard gets higher and higher, the drivers turn up in better cars all the time, and it’s fantastic for the category that twice Macau Formula 3 winner and works DTM driver, Edoardo Montara, turns up in his Audi. You have to be on your toes, and I think collectively as a team, we did a great job all weekend.
“At any normal circuit braking issues wouldn’t be so much of a problem because you’ve got plenty of run off, but in Macau, you want to have confidence in your brake pedal because the track’s lined by barriers and if you out-brake yourself by two metres you hit the wall. So unfortunately I had to bring my braking point back a little bit, which meant we lost a little bit of time, but apart from that the car’s handling was excellent, really responsive, good traction, great rear end, and overall the car was really strong.”
Richard Meins (GB). Age 56. Born: Beckenham, UK. Lives: Stanley, Hong Kong.
“That was brilliant and I must say I really enjoyed the race. Obviously we had a long stop because of the big accident, which was a bit unfortunate. The car was great and I got the pace I thought I should have got yesterday - three seconds faster than I’d been round here before - so I’m extremely happy.
“The guys at the front were good and you have to be quick through Mandarin to overtake and I wasn’t really going to do that because it was pretty messy there. The Ford GT went off just in front of me and the other Audi - with the Japanese driver - the back caught fire, there was loads of oil coming out and that was just before Mandarin. I was behind so I could see it and backed right off. Frank Yu was slightly in front of me and when I got round Mandarin there was Frank facing the other way and hurtling towards the right hand side barrier. My next concern was which way is he going to go? Anyway, I missed him as he shot in front of me. I guess everybody else was so far behind they hadn’t seen it happen and then it was complete carnage. It’s Macau; you don’t have small accidents here. I feel sorry for those other guys as there was a lot of damage, but it you finish Macau and the car’s in shape and you’ve done okay, then you should be happy really.”
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports.
“It’s a shame the race was in two halves with a big accident, but thankfully everybody was okay. It just shows what can happen around Macau. To get two cars back in one piece and running well compared to some of the cars that were coming back is a relief. Danny was driving well within himself but there were not enough laps after the red flag to really challenge. This McLaren development car was delivered to us on the day it flew to Asia, so we had very little time to get to know it. The fact it came here and ran trouble free is a tribute to McLaren GT and I’m really excited United Autosports have achieved a first podium with the car, which really bodes well for the future. There is so much potential in the car; I can’t wait to get my hands on the new definitive 2012 customer version!
“Richard drove very well in the Audi; very good judgement and luck to miss the accident but he certainly got himself through there. He was fastest at the restart, set his fastest lap of the race by quite a long way, and if the track had been wider or a few more laps he’d definitely have made up another place. I’m pleased for Richard and thought he drove exceptionally well. This Audi now heads to Dubai for the 24 Hours in January and then a little tour of the Middle East and Australia.”