United Autosports announces Daytona 24H debut

United Autosports To Debut In Rolex 24 Hours Of Daytona * 1988 Daytona winner Martin Brundle tempted back into competition with former Le Mans 24 Hour race winner Mark Blundell * United Autosports' Chairman & Co-Owner Zak Brown plus fellow ...

United Autosports To Debut In Rolex 24 Hours Of Daytona

* 1988 Daytona winner Martin Brundle tempted back into competition with former Le Mans 24 Hour race winner Mark Blundell

* United Autosports' Chairman & Co-Owner Zak Brown plus fellow American Mark Patterson completes "stellar" line-up

* United Autosports teams up with Michael Shank Racing for Rolex 24

United Autosports gets its second year of racing underway in truly spectacular style by contesting the legendary Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with a stellar driver line-up next month (January 29-30).

1988 Daytona 24 Hour race winner Martin Brundle (England) has been drawn back to the ultra-demanding Floridian race along with fellow former 24 Hours of Le Mans race winner and Grand Prix Formula One ace Mark Blundell (England) who makes his Daytona debut.

Zak Brown, Chairman & Co-Owner of United Autosports, and fellow American Mark Patterson, complete the United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing entry which bids for success with a Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype in the 49th running of the world famous Daytona race.

All four drivers will attend the "Roar Before the Rolex 24", the official three-day test at Daytona next month (January 7-9), to acclimatize themselves to the challenging 3.56-mile, 12-turn combined speedway road course.

United Autosports only turned its first race in April this year, competing in 17 races in Belgium (twice), China, Czech Republic, England (twice), France, Macau, Portugal and Spain. The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona therefore marks the first race on "home" soil for the American-owned team.

Brundle has become a highly regarded and multi-award winning Formula One commentator on British television since retiring from a Formula One career spanning 13 years (1984-96) and 158 Grand Prix starts resulting in 10 podiums.

Martin contested the Le Mans 24 Hours four times (1997-99/01) after his F1 career having won at Le Mans in 1990. Indeed Brundle has made 67 sportscar race starts, including World Sports-Prototype/World Endurance Championships and IMSA events, claiming 34 podiums (including 18 wins) and 11 pole positions.

He has driven Jaguar, BMW Sauber, Red Bull and Williams F1 cars in recent years for media events. In 2005, Martin competed in the Andros Ice Trophy (Renault Megane) and in 2008 drove in the Formula Palmer Audi Championship alongside his son, Alex, who was a series regular. He scored three top-eight finishes from the three races in which he took part.

Martin raced in two rounds of the Scirocco R-Cup finishing third (Hockenheim) and seventh (Brands Hatch) this year plus three Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo races co-driving with Alex resulting in two top four finishes.

1992 Le Mans 24 Hour race winner Blundell raced in Formula One (1991/1993-95) comprising 61 GP starts and three podiums before switching to the CART World Series (1996-2000) which featured 81 starts and three wins (Portland, Toronto, & Fontana).

Daytona "rookie" Mark, who continues to run 2MB Sports Management which includes handling Indycar driver Mike Conway, also became a Formula One television analysist (2001-08) and raced in major sports car races at Le Mans and Sebring following his single-seater career. Blundell finished third in class in the 24 Hours of Spa this year co-driven by United Autosports Co-Owners Brown and Richard Dean (England) plus Eddie Cheever (USA) -- Mark's first race since finishing second in the 2003 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Ultra-successful businessman and entrepreneur Brown has concentrated on GT racing in recent years after starting off in karting before spells in Formulae Three and Opel Lotus, Indy Lights plus Toyota Atlantics.

Zak, who recorded a front row start and podium finish in FIA GT3 European Championship races in Portugal this year, fulfills a personal dream by adding a third Continent -- his "home" one -- to United Autosports' burgeoning profile by contesting the Rolex 24 assisted by regular Grand Am entrant Michael Shank Racing.

Patterson is by far the most experienced of the quartet in terms of Grand Am racing, boasting 66 starts (GT & DP) comprising six podiums. Mark races in the twice-around-the-clock Daytona race for the eighth time and is looking to go one better after finishing second in 2006 -- one of four top-nine finishes Mark has achieved -- all with Michael Shank Racing.

Like Brown, Patterson has raced a United Autosports Audi R8 LMS in the FIA GT3 European Championship this year, placing joint second in the Audi Manufacturer's Cup, and claiming fourth in class in the Spa 24 Hours.

The #23 United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley entry topped the unofficial time sheets in a two-day open test at Homestead-Miami Speedway recently (Dec 1-2).

***

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

Daytona History: None. Daytona 24Hr: Debut. Other 24Hr races: Le Mans, France (1989, 1990, 1992/1st, 1995/4th, 2001, 2002, 2003/2nd); Spa, Belgium (2010/3rd in class).

"The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is one of the most recognized races in the world and it will be my first attempt at this great event -- I've never been to Daytona even as a spectator. I'd not driven a DP until last week at Homestead but it's essentially similar to a Le Mans sports-prototype with much less downforce.

"The team and car has huge potential. This aligned with the fact that I will be co-driving with my very close friend, Martin Brundle, to finally fulfill a dream that the pair of us have had to drive the same car as part of the same team, is fantastic. The icing on the cake is that I will also be sharing driving duties with my good friends Mark [Patterson] and of course Zak [Brown].

"My last race in the US was the Sebring 12 Hours in 2003. Before I raced in the CART World Series [1996-2000], oval courses were alien to me coming from Europe although I enjoyed racing on them and won the Marlboro 500 at Fontana. I've not raced on a banked/infield combination like I'll face at Daytona but I'm looking forward to that challenge. I raced with United Autosports in the 24 Hours of Spa last summer and Daytona is another of those very big races that, for whatever reason, I didn't get a chance to do previously but am very excited to be doing so now."

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

Daytona History: Four 24Hr races. Daytona 24Hr: Debut 1997. Number of Daytona 24Hr race appearances: 4. 1997/8th o/a, 2nd GTS, 1999, 2000 (GT), 2010 33rd/20th (GT). Other 24Hr races: BritCar, Silverstone, GB (2nd o/a, 1st in class); Spa, Belgium (2010/3rd in class).

"As chairman and co-owner of United Autosports, to have my team name on the entry list at the Daytona International Speedway for the legendary 24 Hour race is awesome. Twelve months ago our team didn't exist. We made our race debut at the end of April in Britain and in our first season we raced throughout Europe at legendary tracks like Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps and last month in Asia at Zhuhai [China] and Macau as Audi's official "customer" team in the GT3 sportscar category.

"So now to be racing in my native USA, at the world famous Speedway venue, in North America's only twice around the clock motor race, makes me extremely proud in what we've accomplished in a very short space of time. It's the first time Richard [Dean] and I have partnered with Michael Shank Racing. His team is first class and he'll give us everything we need. Richard [Dean] will be ever present on the pit wall with the Michael Shank Racing boys to learn about Grand Am racing while our driver line-up is about as special as it can get.

"My first race at Daytona was in 1997 but I spend a lot of time there nowadays. I have an office in Daytona Beach and my company, Just Marketing International [JMI], has brought in sponsorship from UPS, Crown Royal and DirecTV to Daytona International Speedway. The 24 Hours will be my first ever race in a Daytona Prototype. I tested a Coyote DP earlier this year which was organized by Eddie Cheever, who drove for my team at Spa, and tested a Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley at Homestead last week (Dec 1) with Mark. I can't wait for the official test days and then the race week in January!"

Martin Brundle (GB). Age: 51. Born: King's Lynn, Norfolk, England. Lives: Gayton, Norfolk, England.

Daytona History: Two 24Hr races. Daytona 24Hr: Debut 1988. Number of Daytona 24Hr race appearances: 2. 1988: 1st (Jaguar XJR-9); 1990: 2nd (Jaguar XJR-12); Last raced at Daytona 1990. Other 24Hr races: Le Mans, France (1987, 1988, 1990/1st, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001; Spa, Belgium (1983, 1984); Willhire, Snetterton, GB (1980/1st in class).

"I've raced at the Daytona International Speedway on just two occasions and have been fortunate to win [1988] and finish second [1990] in the 24 Hours. From what I remember about those two races, they were physically the hardest ones of my career. I'm very much looking forward to returning to the Speedway and will no doubt see many old friends to exchange tall stories with.

"Mark [Blundell] and I were team-mates in Formula One at Brabham [1991] and Ligier [1993] but we've never actually shared a racecar together. We've been close friends since the first time we met on the pit wall at Montreal in 1990 while I've known Zak [Brown] through the business of F1 for a number of years and greatly admire his determination and sheer energy. So when the opportunity arose to race at Daytona with these guys, it was an easy decision.

"In recent years I've been closely following my son Alex's motor racing career but I've been aching to race again. Now that I've cleared my diary of several other obligations, Zak's invitation to do Daytona was perfectly timed. My last race in North America was an IMSA race when I finished fourth at Del Mar [October, 1991]. Until the official test at Daytona early next month I won't have driven a Daytona Prototype."

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

Daytona History: Seven 24Hr races. Daytona 24Hr: Debut 2004. Number of Daytona 24Hr race appearances: 7. (2004 38th/13th SGS, 2005 23rd/14th (DP), 2006/2nd, 2007/9th, 2008/6th, 2009 41st/16th (DP), 2010/7th). Other 24Hr races: Spa, Belgium (2009 17th o/a, 2010/4th in class).

"My first time at the Daytona International Speedway was during a Skip Barber race weekend in the Southern Series [Formula Dodge]. I was in absolute awe the first time I drove out onto the track in a rental car. The scale of it and the steeply banked corners literally took my breath away.

"I drove my first 24 Hours of Daytona with some friends in a SGS class Corvette in 2004 with my first run in the 24 Hours driving a Daytona Prototype a year later. This will be my seventh Daytona 24 in a DP. Competition is very tough -- on drivers and the cars. The top-10 cars approach this as a 'sprint' race nowadays. The international latticework of seriously competent IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula One and just about every serious series of drivers, is one of the great thrills of contesting this race. I remember movie legend Paul Newman amongst the race line-ups and of course in recent years NASCAR's multi-year champion Jimmy Johnson and the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya.

"Grand Am's two class racing [DP and GT] normally means that after 15mins or so, the different classes are all mixed up, so you're pushing yourself to the maximum on each corner, trying to time GT passes as efficiently as possible. Over a 24 hour duration that's pretty intense."

Mike Shank (USA), Team Owner of Michael Shank Racing:

"We have a driver line-up that has both speed and experience and that's very important at Daytona. As long as we can stay out of trouble, accumulating laps and keep the car out of the garage, we should be confident of a good finish. No matter what your pace is like, the main objective is to be out there, putting in the laps day and night so that when it comes down to the last two or three hours of the race, we have a car that can fight for a podium or even better. It's a fantastic race and I'm delighted to be involved with United Autosports' first outing at Daytona and am looking forward to working with Zak [Brown], who I have known and admired for a long time, and Richard [Dean]."

Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:

"Michael Shank Racing's excellent team is providing the experience and expertise to ease United Autosports into the Grand Am arena and the Daytona 24 Hours in particular giving me an opportunity to closely monitor the event from another perspective. Having contested the 1997 and 2010 24 Hour races, this time around I'll see how the event works from the team organization side and from the pit gantry. I will be on hand to help where possible but it will be mainly as the driver assist and provide United Autosports a presence in the pit lane.

"I remember going to watch the 24 hours back in the 1980s with my father [Tony] who also lived in Southern Florida. I have photographs of me proudly shaking hands with Brian Redman, David Hobbs and other greats at this world famous event. Dad raced there in the 1970s and always had great stories of the race -- it has such history and is one of those 'must do' events!

"Looking back at United Autosports' first year, the races, our drivers, the Continents we've been to and the historic and prestigious events we have contested, it is quite amazing. And so to start off 2011 with us on the grid for the Daytona 24 Hours and with the great driver line-up we've assembled, makes me very, very proud."

-source: united autosports

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Sauber , Williams , Michael Shank Racing