Bell chimes in to earn United Autosports first top-10 start position Brno is a totally new venue for all four drivers Maiden FIA GT3 race for Audi R8 LMS at Brno United Autosports netted 14th and 25th plus 19th and 21st positions in the...
Bell chimes in to earn United Autosports first top-10 start position
Brno is a totally new venue for all four drivers
Maiden FIA GT3 race for Audi R8 LMS at Brno
United Autosports netted 14th and 25th plus 19th and 21st positions in the third & fourth rounds respectively of the FIA GT3 European Championship at the 3.36-mile Automotodrom Brno circuit in the Czech Republic this weekend (May 22-23).
A rain shower moments before Race One saw the American-owned, British-based team gamble on a different tire strategy for its brace of Audi R8 LMS sports cars. While the wet-tire shod #22 Audi of Michael Guasch/Mark Patterson prospered, the race for the sister #22 R8 LMS of Matthew Bell/Zak Brown was over almost before it had started when a further rain shower moments into the race put paid to the team's gamble to start on "slick" dry weather tires.
Twenty-four hours later in Race Two the weather conditions had improved but it ended, in many ways, as frustratingly for the United Autosports team which endured a "character building" weekend.
Since the opening FIA GT3 races at Silverstone (May 1-2) in which United Autosports posted top-20 places with both cars in each race, 20kg of ballast had been removed from all competing Audi R8 LMS sports cars which could only manage a best placing of eighth position in the English races -- having been on the podium in both corresponding races last year. Furthermore weight adjustments were made concerning the Corvette Z06R GT3 (+30kg), Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 (+20kg) and Porsche 911 GT3 R (+20kg) in accordance to the FIA's "Balance of Power".
Despite these adjustments, Corvette cars claimed the top-three places in Race One with the highest-placed Audi eighth while in Race Two, Corvette again won with a Lamborghini second. The best-placed Audi R8 LMS this time finishing 11th . . .
Race 1 (Saturday)
Qualifying: 10th #23 Bell, 2m 2.349s; 23rd #22 Guasch, 2m 4.516s. Weather: Overcast, drying.
Race Result: 14th (#22) +126.830s P1; 25th (#23) -2 laps P1. Weather: Rain/Overcast/Sunny, wet/dry.
In the slippery conditions Gausch, on "wet" tires, immediately made up five places while Bell slipped back to 23rd, the team's "slick" tire gamble backfiring as rain briefly returned necessitating a pit-stop for "wets" 15mins into the race with further misery coming in terms of a drive-thru penalty for violation of the starting grid procedure dropping the young Briton to 27th in the 28-car field.
Guasch, having excelled in the difficult conditions, handed over to Patterson in seventh place -- the rain now all but stopped and with the sun shining -- while Bell, having set comparable lap times with the top-10, pitted on the same lap with 33mins to run -- the United Autosport cars resuming in 13th and 27th places respectively after their compulsory driver change pit-stops.
With the track almost completely dry for the closing laps, Patterson took the checkered flag 14th with Brown, like his team-mate, soldiering on with very well worn "wet" tires in 25th place.
Race 2 (Sunday)
Qualifying: 24th #23 Brown, 2m 3.731s; 26th #22 Patterson, 2m 4.098s. Weather: Overcast, dry.
Race Result: 19th (#22) +101.621s P1; 21st (#23) -1 lap P1. Weather: Overcast/Sunny, dry.
The second one-hour race began on a dry track and in warm, overcast weather conditions with Brown and Patterson taking the opening stints in the #23 and #22 Audi sports cars respectively while a first-corner collision resulted in the opening 13mins being run behind the Safety Car.
Brown pitted from 22nd place to change to co-driver Bell on 27mins with Patterson following a lap later from 19th place for Guasch to resume. The #23 Audi then served a stop-go penalty -- for a starting grid infringement -- but almost immediately pitted again with a gear selection issue, resuming in 24th with 23mins to run.
But like in Race One, Bell impressively went on to set a series of lap times comparable with the top-six en route to an unrepresentative 21st place at finish. Guasch too drove well and consistently to take 19th at the flag.
#22 Molecule / Cerutti -- Audi R8 LMS
Michael Guasch (USA). Lives: Walnut Creek, California, USA:
"The reconnaissance lap to the grid for Race One was very wet around the back of the track but dry on the start-finish straightaway. I opted for 'wets' and after the Safety Car had pulled in, I went at it, put my head down and made four or five good passes. It was great, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and handed over to Mark in seventh having started 25th on the grid!
"In the second race, I took over from Mark and just got my head down and push as hard as I could. The Audi felt a little loose at the beginning but it bounced back enabling me to set consistent lap times and hunt down a couple of cars ahead of me which I ultimately overtook. For me the race ended to quickly -- I was enjoying myself out there and felt good."
Mark Patterson (USA). Lives: Bronxville, New York State, USA:
"Mike did a great job in the first race, making exactly the right tire call and drove with conviction. The track dried fast for my stint with no wet or even dry patches to help conserve our [wet] tires. The tires were whistling like crazy thru the corners in the final laps -- it was a struggle to stay on the track.
"I began Race Two we started near the back but battled on. At the start some, some drivers decided to park their cars up against the barriers at Turn One which was helpful for our plight even though the car's handling wasn't quite to my liking. To get 19th at the flag is a big save -- we weren't in great shape."
#23 Remington -- Audi R8 LMS
Zak Brown (USA). Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA:
"My tires were, not surprisingly well "rooted" by the end of the opening race with the track having continued to dry. I just wanted to stay out of big trouble and bring the Audi home unscathed ready for the second race which would hopefully be dictated by us as opposed to Mother Nature.
"Unfortunately I wasn't feeling too good when I got in the car at the start and after the race now I feel even worse which has nothing to do with the bad cold and high temperature I'm running. It was an uneventful stint for me with much of it behind a Safety Car. Hugely frustrating weekend taking everything in to account."
Matthew Bell (GB). Lives: Barningham nr Richmond, North Yorkshire, England:
"It was a gamble to start Race One on 'slicks' and as it happened it didn't work out. It was the first time I'd ever driven the Audi in wet conditions and the positive I took away from what was a very disappointing outcome was that I was as competitive in terms of times with the leaders when I was actually on 'wets'.
"Having taken over from Zak I then almost immediately had to stop to serve a penalty then pitted again with a transmission issue. After that I just told myself to stay calm and not get angry about these situations and to circulate as fast as I possibly could. Ultimately I turned in some respectable times and that's all I could do in these circumstances."
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
"With a car in each half of the grid for Race One and with the weather and track conditions like they were, we opted for a split tire strategy. But following another brief rain shower minutes in to the race, it meant our best-placed starting car was on the wrong option [tires] and the car at the back was on the correct one. Mike, who did brilliantly well in the difficult opening laps, and Mark, both did a fantastic jobs, to make up nine places on their grid position. Obviously the #23 Audi's race was compromised after the second rain shower and Matt had to pit for 'wets'.
"Matt set some exceptionally good lap times once the #23 Audi had been remedied of a technical glitch which wasn't caused by anything directly relating to anything the United Autosports team had done wrong which was also the case with regards the starting grid infringement. Michael and Mark, and an unwell Zak, each did a sterling job in difficult circumstances. We'll move on and now focus on Jarama next month."
John Della Penna (ARG), Partner & Sporting Director of United Autosports:
"It's been a challenging and tough weekend although we can take away some seeds of goodness. We continue to learn about the Audi R8 LMS but our drivers, not surprisingly, still lack experience of the car and time behind the wheel. We opened up some self-inflicted wounds too by our general lack of experience in this championship so the team will go away having learnt valuable lessons so that we come back more polished."
-source: united autosport