United Autosports Daytona test notes 2011-01-09

United Autosports Completes Successful Rolex 24 At Daytona Test Weekend

United Autosports concluded a successful three-day official test at the "Roar Before the Rolex 24" today (Sunday January 9) in advance of the 49th running of the world famous Daytona race later this month.

The United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing entered Riley Daytona Prototype completed a total of over 300 laps around the challenging 3.56-mile, 12-turn combined speedway road course.

All four drivers, Mark Blundell (GB), Zak Brown (USA), Martin Brundle (GB) and Mark Patterson (USA), were present to prepare for this year's Rolex 24 At Daytona that is staged over January 29-30.

1988 Daytona 24 Hour race victor Brundle returned to the famous Florida venue for the first time since finishing second in 1990. Meanwhile fellow former 24 Hours of Le Mans race winner and Grand Prix Formula One ace Blundell turned his first ever laps at Daytona.

Zak Brown, Chairman & Co-Owner of United Autosports, was driving a DP for only the second time -- the first-time at Daytona -- while fellow American Mark Patterson prepared for his eighth Rolex 24 -- his seventh driving a DP having finished second in 2006.

Blundell set the fastest lap for the #23 Riley -- a 1min 40.904secs, an average speed of 127.011mph -- for the sixth fastest time on Sunday morning and 13th fastest combined time over the entire test. Brundle set a personal fastest, also on Sunday morning, within a hundredth of a second of his former Grand Prix team-mate. The team enjoyed a trouble-free test and concentrated on finding a comfortable, consistent car set-up for North America's only twice-around-the-clock sports car race as opposed to outright qualifying pace with all four drivers regularly setting competitive lap times.

The test featured eight timed sessions, all staged in dry, sunny if sometimes breezy and cool weather conditions, amounting to 705 minutes of track time for the 50-car field on the recently re-paved Speedway. Race week on-track action begins on Thursday January 27 for the opening round of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.

Sponsors for United Autosports' maiden race in North America include Johnnie Walker, UBS AG, Legends of Motorsports, Just Marketing International, GAC Logistics, Thunderhead Communications, FXI and Luke's Joint.

Discovery Channel To Follow United Autosports' Progress At Rolex 24

A TV crew from Discovery Channel's How Do They Do It? will follow the team's exploits over the Daytona race weekend and broadcast the program this summer. It is one of the world's most popular technology shows and is broadcast to over 150 countries (over 1.25 billion subscribers) in Asia, Australasia, Europe, North and South America plus South Africa.

Autosport International, National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham (England)

Zak Brown and Richard Dean take part in a Grand-Am Press Conference in Concourse Suite 25 on Thursday January 13 (11am). Meanwhile Joe Osborne, John Bintcliffe and Jay Palmer, who make their respective debuts for United Autosports in the FIA GT3 European (Osborne) and Avon Tyres British GT Championships (Bintcliffe & Palmer) driving an Audi R8 LMS, will also be in attendance at the annual show along with fellow Briton Matt Bell, who contests his second FIA GT3 season for United Autosports and also the BGT this season.

Joe, John, Jay and Matt will be on the Motors TV Stand (Hall 20, 6765) on Thursday at 3.45pm for a photoshoot & interview opportunity. The following day (Friday January 14), Brown and Dean are joined by Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell on the Sunoco Stand (Hall 6, Stand 6565) at 2.30-3.30pm for an informal Press Call and autograph session alongside a Crown Royal Daytona Prototype. Ross Kaiser, winner of the Sunoco Daytona Challenge, will also be in attendance.

Mark Blundell (GB).

"I drove in to the Speedway for the first time in my life on Thursday morning and it was an awesome sight -- let's face it the venue and race is known worldwide. I drove on 'ovals' in my Indycar career and I never found it to be a big deal but the banking here at Daytona is over 30 degrees. Problems can arise coming off the banking in to the infield section which makes life interesting. There are no references at Turn 1 while the high-speed chicane, called the 'bus-stop', can also be tricky due to the same problem, but after three-days, I've gradually got to know my way around and I now feel comfortable. The #23 Riley worked well and I firmly believe our race prospects are promising. I've not contested the Rolex 24 previously but having raced and been successful in 24 hour races at Le Mans, and at Spa with United Autosports last year, it's all about working towards the race as opposed to one lap 'fliers' in that the car is useable and predicable for all four drivers for the entire duration."

Zak Brown (USA).

"This is only the second time I've driven a DP [Daytona Prototype] and the first time here at Daytona and I've driven within my personal limits. All four drivers are up to speed while crucially the team gelled over the test days and so to summarize, everything went very well. Our Riley was competitive in each session, we didn't have any major issues, so I'm very happy. We won't be the fastest car in the race and we didn't spend the last three days trying to achieve putting in the ultimate one lap but our pace is nevertheless good. We also had a lot of fun, with plenty of banter from Mark [Blundell] and Martin, which is great."

Martin Brundle (GB).

"Pulling on my race suit, putting on my helmet, and jumping in a race car again, I did feel a little anxious. It's 10 years really since I raced professionally and so it's natural to have self doubts initially. But once out on to the track, everything comes back to you, it's natural -- just like swimming or riding a bike, you never forget how to do it. I quickly shook off the rust and dropped back in to the groove. We progressively improved the car between us each day and my times came down. It was the first time I'd driven a DP and nothing was a big surprise to me. They don't have much downforce and are much heavier than a Formula One car for example but I was pleasantly surprised. The last time I was here was in 1990 and the track is now in great condition in terms of the quality of the surface, kerbs and run-off areas -- the entire venue looks a million dollars."

Mark Patterson (USA).

"We made excellent progress over the three days to the point that we have a real good, fast race car. I've been with Michael Shank Racing for a number of years in GRAND-AM and I believe this test has shown Zak and Richard made a great choice to run with them in conjunction with United Autosports. We possibly made slower progress than other teams but peaked on Sunday at exactly the right time. Mark, Martin and I all set out best times of the test on the final day and that is exactly what you want. I've already learnt a lot from Mark, who I worked with at Spa with the Audi R8 LMS, and Martin, over the past three days -- they are ultra, ultra competitive guys. But also the nice thing is that we're all gleaning little bits from each other and consequently improving the car and our own individual performances."

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

"I am very pleased with the progress of car #23 at the test. It has been a very good team effort. All four drivers worked with engineer Dale Wise with the assistance of Richard [Dean]. After three days they all got hooked up pretty good and everyone has integrated very well and very quickly."

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

"It's been a very good test. We made progress each day, possibly more than any other DP car. Mark {Blundell] and Martin still know how to drive a race car, both turned in class performances and set times very close to each other on Sunday morning. They were totally focused. Mark [Patterson] continues to surprise me with the impressive times he turns in while Zak, who unfortunately missed today [Sunday] due to a previously organized business meeting, drove very, very well considering his lack of DP experience. I'm very excited about our race prospects."

-source: united autosports

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Mark Blundell , Martin Brundle , Mark Patterson , Richard Dean , Michael Shank , Joe Osborne , Zak Brown , Ross Kaiser , Matt Bell , Jay Palmer
Teams Michael Shank Racing