Johansson Returns to Audi fold With United Autosports For Epic 24 Hour Race In Belgium Stefan Johansson will return to the wheel of an Audi this summer when the Swede drives a R8 LMS GT3 sports car for United Autosports in the Spa 24 Hours (31...
Johansson Returns to Audi fold With United Autosports For Epic 24 Hour Race In Belgium
Stefan Johansson will return to the wheel of an Audi this summer when the Swede drives a R8 LMS GT3 sports car for United Autosports in the Spa 24 Hours (31 July-1 August).
The 53-year-old Los Angeles-based Scandinavian is a veteran of almost twenty 24 Hour races and won the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours in 1997 but will actually be making his debut in the annual twice-around-the-clock Belgian encounter.
Johansson joins fellow ex-Grand Prix driver Mark Blundell who competes in the "sister" United Autosports Audi R8 LMS, is excited to be driving at Spa-Francorchamps again, a legendary venue he has raced at on numerous occasions during his near 40-year motorsport career -- and to be re-united with the Audi marque once more.
"Spa is one of few 'true' classic race tracks left in the world," confirmed Johansson. "There are some fantastic high-speed corners that require a lot of rhythm. The other challenge you always face is the weather -- I don't think I have raced there without it raining for at least one day of a race meeting.
"My first Spa race was back in 1981 [Formula 2] and I've gone on to race pretty much everything from F1, Group C and current sports cars there and I'm very much looking forward to racing a GT3 car for the first time -- especially as it's an Audi.
"They produce superb 'customer' racecars and the Audi guys have been the best people I have ever worked with in all my years of racing. They are so good at what they do, they are pure in their approach and they are real racers at heart and it shows in the product. I'm very excited to be reacquainted with Audi again."
Johansson enjoyed a 10 year F1 career and drove for Shadow, Spirit, Tyrrell, Toleman, Ferrari, McLaren, Ligier, Onyx, AGS, Footwork prior to a six-year spell in the CART World Series but has raced sportscars throughout his extensive career scoring two major race wins (12 Hours of Sebring and Le Mans 24 Hours) both in 1997.
Stefan continued: "I've always enjoyed sportscar racing and love 24 hour races, it's racing in its purest form. I love the solitude of being in the car for up to 4 hours sometimes, it's a personal challenge more than anything and you really have to dig pretty deep by late morning on the second day to stay focused while still going as fast as you possibly can. The car is normally pretty beaten up by then so there are a number of challenges to deal with in that respect too."
United Autosports Co-Owners Zak Brown and Richard Dean are delighted to add a driver of Johansson's caliber to its Spa driver line-up.
"It's an honor to have Stefan join our team. We have been great friends for many years and he is simply an awesome talent in a racecar. Having driven for two of the best teams in F1, in terms of McLaren and Ferrari, and winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans plus the 12 Hours of Sebring twice, these are only accomplishments people like myself can only dream about," confirmed Brown.
Dean remarked: "Stefan is so popular, a real fan favorite and still very quick. His recent American Le Mans Series races in LMP1 show he still has the speed and desire. To have Stefan in our line-up is a real credit to the fantastic job Audi is doing in GT3 -- everyone wants to drive a R8 LMS even ex-F1 drivers!"
Johansson will race the Audi R8 LMS competing in the GT3 category at Spa along with United Autosports' regular FIA GT3 European Championship driver, Mark Patterson (USA), plus Hong Kong-based Frenchman Alain Li.
"Although Mark came in to our FIA driver line-up very late, he's already been a fantastic asset to the team. He enhances a real team spirit and positive approach to everything we do. I am delighted we will have Mark as part of the United Autosports Spa 24 Hour team -- it will provide stability and experience for everybody involved in the event," added Dean.
"As for Alain, we were team-mates in the 2009 Sepang 12 Hour race and I was very impressed with him. He has a calm, focused and a very professional approach to his racing, exactly what we are looking for at Spa for the 24 Hours."
Patterson has contested the Daytona 24 Hours seven times, once in a Corvette and the remainder in a 500bhp Daytona Prototype -- finishing second in 2006 -- and last year's Spa 24 Hours having previously raced at Spa in 2002.
Mark Patterson has added the Spa 24 Hours race to his FIA GT3 European Championship commitment with United Autosports
Mark reflected: "I've finished in the top-eight three times at Daytona and in '96 co-drove Oswaldo Negri, Justin Wilson and AJ Allmendinger to the runners-up position. I've raced on many tracks including Shanghai, Indianapolis, Autodromo Hermanus Rodrigues in Mexico, Montreal, Laguna Seca and Silverstone but there just isn't a race track like Spa -- even before you factor in the weather. I can't wait to get back there."
Hong Kong-based Frenchman Alain Li makes his 24 Hour race debut driving a United Autosports Audi R8 LMS at Spa
Meanwhile Li will be making his 24 Hour race debut but has previous experience of the demanding Spa circuit.
"Although it's my first 24 hour race, I have competed in two 12 hour races and have raced at Spa six times throughout the 1990s when I was competing in the Ferrari Challenge Series. I have loved motor racing since I was a kid and remember watching the film Le Mans and ever since, have harbored an ambition to compete in a 24 Hour race. I have not been to Spa since 1998 so I am looking forward to renewing my Belgian love affair."
The fourth and final driver in the Johansson/Patterson/Li Audi will be confirmed in the coming weeks as will the co-drivers sharing with ex-Grand Prix driver Mark Blundell (GB). United Autosports is contesting the entire 2010 FIA GT3 European Championship with its over 500-hp, V10 engined Audi sports car.
-source: united autosport