Saturday, February 25, 2012

United Autosports Takes Seventh In Qualifying For Tomorrow's Bathurst 12 Hours

·        Patterson, Yu and Li revel in their first laps at Bathurst

·        United Autosports Audi R8 LMS runs perfectly at awesome Mount Panorama

·        Tire strategy puts team in strong position for the race

·        Patterson avoids kangaroo in first qualifying!

Qualifying for the Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour classic GT endurance event went exactly to plan today for the United Autosports trio of drivers in their Audi R8 LMS as the team acclimatized to the spectacular Mount Panorama circuit.

US-based South African Mark Patterson, Hong Kong-based Frenchman Alain Li and Hong Kong’s Frank Yu did everything asked of them by Team Manager Richard Dean, each driver setting a good lap time, with Patterson clocking up the team’s fastest time of 2m 13.0757s to put them seventh on the grid for tomorrow’s 12 hour race.

The times of the three drivers were aggregated over the two qualifying sessions to give the car its grid position, and overall, on the team’s first visit to Bathurst, the drivers did an admirable job around a circuit that reputably can take years to learn. And that was all while avoiding kangaroos on track; as the first qualifying session began, a message was flashed to the teams to say: 'Kangaroos on the circuit at turn 18', at which point, Patterson radioed in to say: "Woah! Just missed one!"

On arrival on Thursday morning, Patterson, Li and Yu were given some coaching by fellow Audi R8 driver, Australian Craig Lowndes in a road car around the undulating circuit to help familiarize them with the tricky rollercoaster-type undulations.

With an allowance of only 10 sets of Michelin tires for the entire qualifying sessions and race, the team strategy was to use only one set of tires for all three drivers in qualifying and save the rest of the allocation for the race. Thus each driver went out, set a respectable time and then returned to the pits.

That was how it remained through the shorter second half hour qualifying session later in the day in very hot conditions, during which each driver simply went out, set a time and returned to the pits with the rest of the time being used for pit stop practises.

All the three drivers are delighted with the whole Bathurst experience, which for each has been on their ‘must do’ list of races. Patterson, Li and Yu are all experienced endurance racers and the Anglo-American team is aiming for a podium at the end of the 12 hours, which is streamed live at, starting at 06.15am local time.

From left to right, Alain Li, Mark Patterson and Frank Yu
Alain Li (F), Age: 51. Born: Caen, France. Lives: Hong Kong:

“This is a great track and considering we only did a few laps yesterday, every lap out you're still learning something and gaining more speed. Everybody did a great job and P7 is a pretty good position to start from.

“We had quite a lot of help from Craig Lowndes, who showed us where the lines were, braking points and so on and that helped a great deal. The Audi is perfectly suited to this sort of track and the engineers have given us a great car. The brakes are phenomenal and you need good brakes around here because there's little run-off. The turn in on the car is really sharp, the pick up on the power make for a brilliant, brilliant package.”

Mark Patterson (SA), Age 60. Born: Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Lives: Bronxville, NY, USA:
“We had a comfortable 10 or 11 laps each yesterday; all scoring in the 2m 17s so it seemed like quite a challenge to get out there and race against guys who really, really know the track. But the car with new tires and lighter fuel felt so much better. We'd learned a lot [from yesterday] by going through the data and all of us pulled in three seconds or better on our prior lap time.

“Obviously we can't beat the guys who have slept and walked and talked and raced this wonderful racetrack on pure lap times, but the car is in fabulous shape so if we can go garageless the whole time - trust me - we'll be fighting it out for a podium in the end. This is going to be a great race!”

Frank Yu (Hong Kong), Age: 48. Born: Hong Kong. Lives: Hong Kong:
“We have put in some good laps and being our first time here, I think we have done well. We used one set of soft tires for the entire duration of qualifying for all three drivers - and I was the last one out.

"Richard and Erik have a strategy and told me to do just one lap of about 2 minutes 18s and you're done, and that's exactly what I did. We need to do the least amount of pit stops we can [during the race] so nursing the tires will be critical and finishing the race is the most important.”

Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
“The regulations state 10 sets of tires are available to teams from the start of qualifying to the end of the race so it's easy with two qualifying sessions totaling two hours to go through too many sets of tires and not have enough for the race. We decided to use only one set today which meant the first guy out would get the best of the tires, which was Mark.

“Alain went out and did a great job to pretty much match Mark's time. Frank had got the worst of the tires and he's improved again on yesterday, so seventh on the grid is good and only one set of tires used gives us nine new sets for us to play with tomorrow. But we'll obviously be double stinting some tires with 12 or 13 stops; we're not sure when in the race yet - we'll see what the weather is like!”

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