United Autosports Expands North American Racing Effort After Impressive Stateside GRAND-AM Debut At Daytona
Mark Blundell (GB) and Michael Valiante (CAN) team together in an exciting line-up for the first time in a late United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley entry at Homestead on Saturday (March 5) -- the second round of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
The #23 Ford-Riley achieved a magnificent fourth place finish in the season-opening 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona (USA) which featured Blundell -- United Autosports' maiden North American race for present day racecars -- while GRAND-AM Rolex race winner Valiante netted 10th place in a similar MSR run Ford-Riley.
Blundell and Valiante, the latter having finished fifth in the corresponding 2006 race, contest the Grand Prix of Miami at the 2.3-mile, 11-turn Homestead-Miami combined speedway/road course. It is considered to be the toughest event on the entire GRAND-AM calendar due to a necessity for prolonged high-power and with the race run in intense midday Florida sunshine.
The further expansion into GRAND-AM racing by United Autosports adds to the team's existing North American racing forays. United Autosports' Chairman and Co-Owner Zak Brown is also a co-founder of the rapidly rising Legends of Motorsports historic racing series.
From its US hub in Indianapolis, United Autosports fields a full fleet of iconic racing machines on the Legends tours. This compliments the full-season efforts the team campaigns in British GT and FIA GT3 European Championships from its UK headquarters in Leeds, England. This in addition to its Anglo-American ownership contributes to United Autosports unique business and racing structure.
Mark Blundell (GB). Age: 44. Born: Barnet, England. Lives: Royston, England:
"It's great to make such a quick return to the cockpit of the United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing Riley. The entry was only confirmed 100% today [March 1] so I haven't had much time to think about it. But with flight tickets now booked, I am really looking forward to racing at Homestead. I raced there on a different circuit configuration in my IndyCar days but never previously raced on the Speedway/infield combined course. However, I had my first run in the #23 Riley there last December. It'll also be great to team up with Michael Valiante who I met for the first time at Homestead and then at Daytona -- he is a very impressive driver. I must say a big thank you to Zak [Brown] for putting this deal together."
Michael Valiante (CAN). Age: 31. Born: New Westminster, B. Columbia. Lives: Vancouver, Canada:
"I'm very happy to have this opportunity to race the United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing entry at Homestead and am very much looking forward to co-driving with Mark. He's of course a very exciting racer and we worked together at the Continental Tire test at Homestead in December as well as during the 24, so I'm really looking forward to building on that this weekend. The #23 had an outstanding race at Daytona and I'd love to add to that with a strong run this weekend at Homestead."
Zak Brown (USA). Chairman & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
"I'm extremely pleased coming off our very strong result in Daytona that we are able to extend our program with the United Autosports/MSR entry. We'll have two great drivers in the car this weekend and we are committed to doing some additional races later in the year and hope we can keep the effort going all season."
Mike Shank (USA), Team Owner of Michael Shank Racing:
"I'm very happy that we have the opportunity to race the No.23 United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing entry once again at Homestead. Having two drivers with the speed, experience and star power that Mark and Michael bring is just fantastic. This is a partnership that I'm personally very excited about and we had a great first race together with our run to fourth in the 24. I'm very pleased that we are able to continue with this program for Homestead and I'm optimistic that we will see this car racing in the Rolex Series a few more times this year."
Richard Dean (GB). Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
"To be making another GRAND-AM appearance so soon after our Rolex 24...but is fantastic. I'm sure the #23 can play an important part in this race and the series in the longer term. To have Mark [Blundell] who is now something of a regular for us [he races at Spa for a second consecutive year], is an important endorsement and a sign of serious intent from United Autosports. We are also delighted to have Michael Valiante with us. Michael was hugely helpful at Daytona when driving for the 'sister' MSR car so we had a close-up at his very impressive ability and experience at this level."
-source: united autosports