Cheever In United Autosports' Star-Studded Spa 24 Hour Race Attack
Former Indy 500 race winner Eddie Cheever will contest the Spa 24 Hours endurance GT sports car race at the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS sportscar for United Autosports (Jul 31-Aug 1).
The 52-year-old American, who last raced two years ago, makes a one-off return behind the wheel for the American-owned, British operated "official customer" Audi GT3 team in the twice-around-the-clock Belgian race.
Cheever, who scored five Indy Racing League victories from 77 starts having spent seven seasons in the CART World Series after an 11 year Formula One career, co-drives an Audi R8 LMS with fellow former Grand Prix driver Mark Blundell (GB) plus United Autosports' co-owners, Zak Brown (USA) and Richard Dean (GB), at Spa-Francorchamps.
"Having spent a number of years of my career racing sportscars, I am very interested to drive a latest GT3 machine and being given the opportunity by my good friend Zak [Brown] to drive an Audi at Spa doesn't get much better," remarked Cheever who still holds the record Indy 500 fastest lap of 236.103mph (May 26, 1996).
"The Belgian track is one of my favorite circuits, arguably the best Grand Prix venue I ever raced on and I still vividly remember qualifying in the wet with the Renault Turbo . I'm really excited about going back to race there for the first time since 1989."
Cheever, who drove for Theodore, Hesketh, Osella, Tyrrell, Ligier, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Haas Lola and Arrows in F1, scored a personal best third place finish at Spa in the 1983 Grand Prix but also netted top-six placings there in sportscars.
Eddie added: "I always considered the 24 Hours of Le Mans to be the most dangerous race I did every year when the Mulsanne Straight had no chicanes. The only other 24 hour event I raced in has been at Daytona, the last time being three years ago which was actually my last race.
"But the lure of racing at Spa again, in a 24 hour race, with Zak and in an Audi was too much of a good thing to turn down. I'm really looking forward to the experience."
The Spa 24 Hours was first run in 1924 while only one American has ever won the race -- Italian-born Luigi Chinetti who emigrated to the United States and became an American citizen. The Audi of Blundell/Brown/Cheever/Dean will be bidding for GT3 class honors. The fourth driver in the "sister" R8 LMS joining Stefan Johansson (Sw), Alain Li (F) and Mark Patterson will be announced in the coming weeks.
Brown and Dean have previously competed in Daytona and BritCar 24 Hour races with Richard also contesting Le Mans on three occasions, WillHire and Dubai twice-around-the-clock encounters, and both are eagerly looking forward to Spa with special pride as co-owners of a United Autosports team boasting a "star-studded" driver line-up.
Zak Brown said: "I'm very excited to have Eddie join our team. To share a seat with an Indy 500 champion at Spa is very special. To have two Le Mans winners [Blundell & Johansson] and an Indy 500 champion [Cheever] with all three having had great careers in Formula One, is simply fantastic.
"Spa is one of the greatest race tracks in the world while the 24 Hours event stands out as a headline event in itself. To be racing with my own team and with drivers I've admired since I've been following racing will make this event a once in a lifetime personal experience for me."
Richard Dean added: "The line-up looks fantastic! It's quite something to have the opportunity to race with a life-long friend in Zak. To add one of Britain's past F1 stars and now Eddie Cheever to the line-up is remarkable! Eddie is a pure racer. He has started more F1 races than any other American. Having Eddie on the team will be a real boost and I am sure there will be plenty of fans turn out to see him back."
United Autosports, from its base in Yorkshire, England, was only formed over the winter months and is contesting the entire FIA GT3 European Championship title with a brace of Audi R8 LMS sports cars this year.
Johansson and Cheever both experienced their first runs in the Audi R8 LMS at Snetterton (England) yesterday (Tuesday 8 June) with Blundell also present to enjoy his second run in the Audi after an initial test on Silverstone's Stowe circuit (England) last month (Tuesday May 4).
-source: united autosports