Spa 24H: United Autosports qualifying report

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Let Battle Commence As United Autosports Sets Out On Maiden 24 Hour Race! The American owned United Autosports team starts its maiden twice-around-the-clock endurance race on Saturday (July 31) from 10th and 13th positions in the GT3 category...

Let Battle Commence As United Autosports Sets Out On Maiden 24 Hour Race!

The American owned United Autosports team starts its maiden twice-around-the-clock endurance race on Saturday (July 31) from 10th and 13th positions in the GT3 category for the Spa 24 Hours (Belgium).

Richard Dean (GB) set a personal quickest time of 2m 25.745s in the #68 Audi R8 LMS around the magnificent 4.35-mile Belgian venue with Stefan Johansson (Sw) at the wheel the "sister" #67 Audi posting a 2m 27.220s. The United Autosports Audi GT3 sports cars start the prestigious annual race from the eighth and 11th rows of the 40-car grid.

Both "times" were set in total darkness on soft compound "slick" dry weather tires in the dying moments of the final 45mins session which finished 10mins before midnight. Spa and rain have always been traditionally and intrinsically linked and the weather Gods did not disappoint throughout the day which began at 0900hr.

The opening practice session for the 2010 Total 24 Hours of Spa took place in torrential rain which eased off midway through although the track remained wet. The afternoon pre-qualifying trial saw less than one third of the 90mins practice run using "slicks".

The 63rd running of the 24 Hours of Spa on Saturday at 1600hr after a 20mins warm-up (0910-0930).

* Times quoted are "local" Central European Time.

#67 Cerutti / FXDD / Roger Dubuis Watches / Road & Track / Legends of Motorsports / LG Electronics -- Audi R8 LMS

Emil Assentato (USA).

Age: 61. Born: New York City, N.Y., USA. Lives: Locust Valley, N.Y., USA:

Spa 24Hr: Debut. Spa History: None. Other 24Hr races: Daytona (2000 26th, 2001 34th o/a/9th, 2002 28th/10th, 2004 37th/16th, 2005 11th/2nd. 2006 21st/10th. 2007 19th/7th, 2008 13th/5th, 2009 17th/9th, 2010 28th/16th).

"This is my first visit to Spa [apart from the test earlier this month] and there is no doubt that it's a difficult place to learn -- particularly at night. It's certainly a massive challenge for me to drive a new car at a new venue and in constantly changing weather conditions -- it's been something of a baptism of fire. The team is great, it's an awesome car and I can't wait for the green flag on Saturday."

Stefan Johansson (Sw).

Age: 53. Born: Vaxjo, Sweden. Lives: Los Angeles, California, USA:

Spa 24Hr: Debut. Spa History: Debut August 9 1981 (F2/14th). F1 (1983, 85-91 -- 1986/3rd, 1987/2nd), F2 (1981-2 -- pole-position 1982/F2), GpC (1982-4), 1,000km sports cars (1988/1st). Last race at Spa: August 19 2007 (LMS/Ret). Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1983/6th, 1984, 1990, 1991/6th, 1992/5th, 1997/1st, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003/3rd, 2006, 2007, 2008). Daytona (2000 23rd, 2002 36th/13th, 2005/4th, 2006/22nd).

"We steadily improved the Audi throughout the day and the times have come down. We'll take on some set-up changes from the #68 Audi which that car benefitted from at the end and I'm sure we'll have a pretty good race car. Incredibly after three qualifying sessions taking us up to almost midnight I had traffic on every lap. But for 24 hour race grid positions are pretty academic. It's just fantastic to be back at Spa and driving a 24 hour race again."

Alain Li (F).

Age: 50. Born: Caen, France. Lives: Hong Kong:

Spa 24Hr: Debut. Spa History: Debut 2004, Ferrari Challenge Series (2004-8). Last race at Spa: 2008. Other 24Hr races: None.

"It's been a very changeable day in terms of the weather, which is exactly what you expect here, but it's meant each time I've gone out on track the conditions have been completely different. I'm confident that I'll improve on my lap times during the race with every lap but it's just great fun for simply being here at Spa. Apart from the test day this is only my second time in the Audi and there is plenty to learn about this car. There's definitely a lot for me to take in."

Mark Patterson (USA). Age:58. Born: Port Elizabeth, S Africa. Lives: Bronxville, N.Y., USA:

Spa 24Hr: 2009 17th o/a (Ferrari 430 GT3). Spa History: Debut 2001. Lamborghini Super Trophy (2001). Last race at Spa 2009 (24hrs). Other 24Hr races: Daytona (2004 38th/13th, 2005 23rd/14th, 2006/2nd, 2007/9th, 2008/6th, 2009/41st, 2010/7th)

"I think we're in pretty good shape for the race having survived all conditions Mother Nature has thrown at us during the course of 15 hours of on-track action today. We've steadily worked through the day to improve the Audi. This weekend marks my second Spa 24 Hours and I just can't wait for the race to start. This place is what dreams are made of."

#68 Remington / Singapore Exchange / Road & Track / Legends of Motorsports / LG Electronics -- Audi R8 LMS

Mark Blundell (GB). Age: 44. Born: Barnet, England. Lives: Royston, England:

Spa 24Hr: Debut. Spa History: Debut May 16 1987 (F3000/2nd). F3000 (1987-89 -- 1987/2nd), F1 (1991-95 -- 91 scored first-ever F1 point, 94/5th, 95/5th), sportscars (1989/3rd). Last race at Spa: August 27 1995 F1/5th. Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1989, 1990, 1992/1st, 1995/4th, 2001, 2002, 2003/2nd).

"It's been a typical day at Spa in terms of the varying weather conditions and a good warm-up for a 24 hour race in respect of ever-changing track conditions with gravel and oil on the surface. I had my first run in the opening morning session and my last stint behind the wheel gone 11pm so it's been a long day. We've continued to hone the R8 LMS in preparation for the race so we're looking in pretty good shape for the race."

Zak Brown (USA). Age: 38. Born: Los Angeles, California, USA. Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA:

Spa 24Hr: Debut. Spa History: Opel Lotus Formula (1993/3rd). Other 24Hr races: BritCar (GB), Daytona (1997/8th, 1999, 2000, 2010/33rd o/a/20th) .

"I got out on track for the first time in Q1 so haven't had many laps today but that's okay, it's an endurance race afterall! I was pleased with my times in Q2. I'm thoroughly enjoying the event with our incredible driver line-up. To have Eddie, Mark and Stefan onboard for United Autosports' maiden 24 hour race is indeed a privilege. The Audi has slightly more horsepower since our last FIA GT3 races which is very good news while our engineering guys are doing a great job. The aim is for a reliable run to a GT3 podium finish come Sunday afternoon."

Eddie Cheever (USA). Age: 52. Born: Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Lives: Indianapolis, USA:

Spa 24Hr: Debut. Spa History: Spa debut May 22 1983 F1/3rd, F1 (1983, 85-89 -- 1983/3rd, 1987/4th, 1988/6th), GpC (1986/5th, 1987/4th. Last race at Spa: 1989/Ret (F1). Other 24Hr races: Le Mans (1980/19th, 1981/8th, 1986/24th, 1987/5th. Daytona (2006/17th, 2007/32nd)

"This is my third day in the Audi R8 LMS after tests at Snetterton [GB] and here last month and I'm getting more and more comfortable with it. Conditions have been strange in that it's been wet, dry, damp then daytime, then nighttime. But every time I drive, the times are a little quicker. The balance is better than at the test day and that's exactly what you need for such a physically demanding track like Spa which is a dream to come back to after all of these years. Team co-owners Zak [Brown] and Richard [Dean] have a superb outfit here, they should be complimented on what they have achieved in a short space of time."

Richard Dean (GB). Age: 45. Born & Lives: Leeds, West Yorkshire, England:

Spa 24Hr: Debut. Spa History: Debut August 29 1992/Ret (F3000). F3000 (1992), FIA GT (1997/24th/12th), British GT (1998/6th/2nd 1999/2nd). Last race at Spa: September 26 1999 (British GT). Other 24Hr races: WillHire (GB), BritCar (GB), Nurburgring, Le Mans (2006/15th/1st, 2007/23rd/5th, 2009), Mondello Park (IRL), Daytona (2010/33rd/20th), Dubai

"Both Stefan and I managed to improve our grid positions right at the end of the final qualifying session. I thought we were going to be thwarted in achieving a representative time having encountered a Red Flag, rain or oil on the track all at the wrong time for us in the previous sessions. There was still a lot more time to come as incredibly, at the stage in the session, traffic was a major problem. But the most pleasing aspect is that we made changes prior to my final run which improved the Audi massively. We will now have a more consistent and easier car to drive for the race which is very good news."

-source: unitedautosports.com

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