American duo Michael Guasch (left) and Mark Patterson scored 11th and 12th place finishes in their ...
American duo Michael Guasch (left) and Mark Patterson scored 11th and 12th place finishes in their #22 Audi R8 LMS at Jarama
United Autosports achieved its best FIA GT3 European Championship results in the latest races at Jarama (Spain) today (June 20) marking the halfway stage of the 12-race season.
The two, one-hour races staged in warm, sunny weather conditions on the 2.39-mile circuit located near Madrid marked the first time the series had run in Spain and saw the American team net 11th, 12th and 13th place finishes.
The #23 Audi, which missed vital on-track time on Saturday when the #17 Graff Racing Corvette collided with Brown early in "Free Practice 2" necessitating a right-rear suspension change prior to qualifying, retired from Race Two due to a punctured rear tire.
Ultra-experienced British engineer, Alan Mugglestone, has now been recruited in to the team while Danny Watts (GB) was on hand at Jarama in his role as "driver coach" fresh from his Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 class victory.
The United Autosports team had tested at Albacete en route to Jarama and will test at Nogaro (France) on June 29 prior to the seventh and eighth rounds of the FIA GT3 series at Paul Ricard (France) on July 3-4 before heading to Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) for the "official" 24 Hour race Test Day on July 7.
Bell began from P9 on the 26-car grid, the team's best start position of the season -- 1.090s away from "pole" -- with Patterson starting from P19 -- the first time both United Autosports cars had recorded top-20 qualifying positions in the same session.
Matt was up to eighth place on lap six -- in the middle of a hectic eight-car dice for fourth -- with Patterson 17th one lap later after 15mins. Bell had charged in to sixth place by lap 11, Patterson 15th, the young Briton slipping back two places with 35mins to run.
Patterson pitted from seventh place on lap 16, Guasch resuming in 12th, with Bell second on the road 25.623secs down on the leader -- but in real terms P6 -- handing over to Brown four-laps later, Zak rejoining the race seventh. Guasch drove with good consistent lap times to take 12th at the checker -- United Autosport's best result of the season. Meanwhile Brown lost four places with two separate incidents before recording 13th in the 36-lap race which saw an Audi R8 LMS score its first FIA GT3 race win of the season.
Brown and Guasch started P21 and P24 respectively, the latter finding himself muscled back to 26th on the opening lap but with 15mins ran, Guasch was 20th. Brown slipped back to 22nd after a momentary loss of drive before suddenly stopping on track at pit exit on the 11th lap when a tire blew spectacularly. Guasch pitted from 18th after 27mins, co-driver Patterson resuming 19th, Michael consistently setting top-six lap times in the final 15mins en route to a praiseworthy 11th place finish -- to better the team's best race result of the season.
#22 Molecule / Cerutti -- Audi R8 LMS
Michael Guasch (USA). Lives: Walnut Creek, California, USA:
"The Audi felt really good when I took it over from Mark in 12th and I immediately felt confident in Race One. I just put my head down and watched others making mistakes -- including taking a direct hit from a BMW which cost me a couple of spots but had recovered those places by the finish. I was shoved out wide in Turn One at the start of Race Two -- there was a lot of bumping and banging going on. I felt I drove well and the Audi was in good shape when I handed it over to Mark."
Mark Patterson (USA). Lives: Bronxville, New York State, USA:
"We had a wonderful opening race scoring the team's best finish to date -- the Audi was fantastic. I started from inside the top-20 for the first time this season. Our tires held up very well throughout. Race Two was a blast! I revised my gear changes due to the condition of the tires but the grip level remained constant throughout my stint which allowed me to make up a number of positions over the closing laps. Ultimately we went one better than our Race One result. I'm really looking forward to the second half of the season."
#23 Remington -- Audi R8 LMS
Zak Brown (USA). Lives: Carmel, Indiana, USA:
"We achieved the best result of the season for the #23 Audi in the opening race but when Matt, who drove a great race, hands over the car to me well inside the top-10 and I bring it home only 13th then I have to be disappointed. I was having problems downshifting under braking which resulted in a spin and a half spin. I was bothered and discouraged after those incidents which lost me my rhythm. I made a good start in Race Two but took a couple of hits on the rear which evidently damaged the car's bodywork and ultimately caused a massive tire blow out coming along the start-finish straightaway. In between I also had a transmission issue. I think Matt would have taken our car in to the points [top-10] especially having witnessed Mark's fantastic drive in the #22 Audi."
Matthew Bell (GB). Lives: Barningham nr Richmond, North Yorkshire,
"I started Race One from ninth, although I was personally a little disappointed as I felt I could have qualified higher up the grid. I lost a couple of places by Turn One at the start but then became embroiled in a hectic fight for what was effectively fourth place. I got a little too excited of being in the mix and made a couple of mistakes. Unfortunately I never got to contest Race Two, a great shame but one of those things that happens in motor racing."
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
"We've shown a lot of promise this weekend which is not fully reflected in the results. Matt experienced his first, full-on, full-blooded FIA GT3 fight in the opening race. It's never easy to attack the car in front while at the same time, defending your position from the car behind but he learnt both skills quickly and did a good job. Zak experienced some front brake temperature issues but kept his composure. Mark did an exceptionally good job to bring the #22 Audi up from P19 in his stint and Mike carried on the good work, leapfrogging Zak in the #23 Audi in the closing stages. Starting near the back of the grid in Race Two was always going to put us at risk of contact which effectively ruined the race for #23 -- Zak did well to keep it out of the pit wall going at 230kph when the tire blew. Michael did a solid and strong job in the #22 Audi while Mark came thoroughly alive and has given the team a massive lift. That's exactly the strategy we'd planned for the #23 Audi with Zak and Matt."
John Della Penna (ARG), Partner & Sporting Director of United Autosports:
"It's been a really good weekend -- we've again learnt a lot. It was difficult for us here but all of the guys have done a great job. Our test at Albacete helped while Alan [Mugglestone] brings a lot of experience and discipline to the team. The Audi has been badly handicapped due to the rules until now but the R8 LMS is again competitive so I'm certain the second half of the season will be good for us."