ILMC: Zhuhai United Autosports preview

ILMC: Zhuhai United Autosports preview
Oct 30, 2010, 4:31 AM

First race for Audi R8 LMS GT3 sports car in China The Audi R8 LMS sports car makes its Intercontinental Le Mans Cup race debut when Anglo-American team United Autosports run a pair of its distinctively liveried GT3 sports cars in the third and ...

First race for Audi R8 LMS GT3 sports car in China

The Audi R8 LMS sports car makes its Intercontinental Le Mans Cup race debut when Anglo-American team United Autosports run a pair of its distinctively liveried GT3 sports cars in the third and final round of the inaugural series at Zhuhai (China) on Sunday November 7.

Richard Meins (England), Danny Watts (England) and Frank Yu (Hong Kong) share the #96 Audi with Alain Li (France) and Henri Richard (France) piloting the #97 R8 LMS. Li was part of the British-based team's successful Spa 24 Hour line-up and is the only one with previous experience of racing the German-built sports car and driving for Audi's "official" customer team which is based in England.

The team's brace of R8 LMS sports cars will run in the "LM" GTC category and will be prepared in FIA GT3 specification. The 1,000km event marks the first-ever race for the Audi R8 LMS in China -- a highly important and successful market for AUDI AG.

The one millionth Audi in China was recently handed over to a customer from Changchun (October 20). Audi was the first premium brand in China 22 years ago and have been the unrivaled market leader in this segment ever since. Of the cars delivered to customers, 950,000 were produced in Changchun and the other 50,000 imported. To date, no other carmaker in the premium segment has managed to sell over a million cars in the Chinese market. In the first nine months of 2010, Audi delivered some 175,000 units in China and Hong Kong, also a new record.

#96 -- Audi R8 LMS

Richard Meins (GB). Age: 55. Born: Beckenham, England. Lives: Hong Kong:

"I've known Danny [Watts] well having been team-mates at Macau for the past few years. I am very excited at the prospect of racing the United Autosports Audi R8 LMS for the first time and joining the prestigious Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. I recently finished third overall in the Spa 6 hours driving a Ford GT40 and have competed in the Nurburgring 24 Hours on several occasions but this will be my ILMC series debut."

Danny Watts (GB). Age: 30. Lives: Thornborough nr Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, England:

"The Zhuhai track is good to drive. It's narrow and bumpy in places but with a good mixture of corners. This means the car's set-up is a compromise but with several hairpin type corners, braking stability and traction will be important. I'm very excited about racing the Audi R8 LMS. It's a stunningly beautiful car and having attended most of the FIA races as the team's driver coach and understanding the car's behavior, handling characteristics and looking through huge amounts of data, I'm very excited to get the opportunity to now drive it myself. I'm very thankful to Zak [Brown] and Richard [Dean] for this opportunity and for Strakka Racing who I race for in the Le Mans Series in allowing me to race."

Frank Yu (HK). Age: 47. Lives: Hong Kong:

"It's been sometime since Zhuhai hosted a major international event. China is a huge market for anything and everything at the moment. Motorsport is a fast growing sport in the entire Asian region. The race will be tough as we'll need to be very aware of the LM P1 prototypes at all times because of the massive speed differential."

#97 Comtech Group / Roger Dubuis / WT Microelectronics -- Audi R8 LMS

Alain Li (F). Age: 50. Born: Caen, France. Lives: Hong Kong:

"Zhuhai is a challenging track which is heavy on braking and features a high number of second gear corners. The surface is also quite abrasive and bumpy. I have raced there and in Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu on numerous occasions when I competed in the Porsche Cup between 2005-08. Contesting the Spa 24 Hour race with United Autosports this summer will, I'm sure, prove to be excellent preparation. It's likely to be a more physical race than Spa and more mentally demanding due to the shorter 'recovery' time in between driving stints, the type of track coupled with faster LMP cars which will require maximum concentration throughout the 1,000km race. I'm very excited about the race with the small but high quality field comprising of the very top Le Mans teams and drivers."

Henri Richard (F). Age: 52. Born: Paris, France. Lives: Los Altos Hills, CA (USA):

"I've never previously raced at Zhuhai, or anywhere in China for that matter, so I'm really looking forward to the whole experience although I did attend an FIA GT race at Zhuhai a couple of years ago when I was a passive observer of my friend Andrea Piccini who was racing his Ferrari. I'm heading to China off the back of a class win in the 1,000 mile Petit Le Mans race so I am not worried about the Zhuhai race in terms of physical fitness. The weather conditions are likely to be hot and humid but I've experienced these conditions racing in the American Le Mans Series all this year. I am excited about the state of motorsports in Asia and hope this is the first of many racing events for me in the region."

Zak Brown (USA). Driver, Chairman, Co-Owner United Autosports:

"China is a very important automobile market nowadays. Indeed AUDI AG recently set a new sales record there and is its largest foreign market. As a team owner, I'm very proud that we're now adding an appearance in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup to those in the FIA GT3 European and British Championships plus the 24 Hours of Spa -- all in our maiden season. The Zhuhai race will also mark the first time an Audi R8 LMS has raced in the ILMC, or Le Mans Series for that matter, while United Autosports is the only two-car Audi R8 LMS team competing in the Chinese race which is also very satisfying."

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

"There is no doubt that Zhuhai will be a major test for United Autosports -- arguably the biggest challenge in our very short existence. The third and final round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup marks our first race in an ACO sanctioned event and is certainly a real 'fly away' event for us! I expect us to put on a professional show and be very competitive in the GTC category in China."

-source: united autosport

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