- Solid pace shown by both LMP2 and LMP3 teams by leading first half of the race
- Weather ruined certain podium finishes and possible wins for both teams
- Round three to be held at Paul Ricard, France in June
United Autosports suffered a hugely disappointing race today at the Red Bull Ring in Austria as the weather played a huge part in the final result for both their LMP2 and LMP3 teams.
Both teams had great starts, with all four cars running in the top three of their respective classes for the majority of the first hour, until the rain began to fall at the halfway point of the race, when conditions turned tricky leaving United Autosports lower down the order than their pace in the early stages of the race demonstrated.
The team will move onto the next round at Paul Ricard, France on 4-6 June, where the Michelin Le Mans Cup team will return to the paddock. Before that, United Autosports will be racing at Paul Ricard for round two of the GT4 European Series, where their GT4 team will be hoping to continue their good form from the opening round in Monza last month.
“It has been a disappointing race for the team in Austria, but the positive to take away is the pace that was shown by both our LMP2 and LMP3 teams. Various factors got in the way of us taking the win today, which was there for both sides of the garage, but we will come back stronger in Paul Ricard.”
“It has been a long time since we haven’t had one of our cars on the podium. We know that the pace was there, but there were too many mistakes today unfortunately. But as we look back, there is nothing that we can do to change what happened, so we have to look forward to the next round and keep our heads up. I know the team will move on and get back to winning ways. All four of our cars were running strongly during the first half of the race so we will work on that and see what happens in Paul Ricard.”
The LMP2 team started the race strongly, with the #32 lining up third after a great qualifying by Nico Jamin the previous day. Nico took the start and had taken the lead of the race during his stint, before handing over to Manuel Maldonado. Phil Hanson, who started the race for the #22 in eighth place, made up three positions to run fifth on the first lap before running in second, one place behind Nico, before both cars pitted at the end of the first stint. After two stints, Phil handed the #22 over to Jonathan Aberdein, while Manuel stayed on board the #32. At the end of the first half of the race, the rain began to fall, causing tricky conditions for the entire field. Manuel pitted the #32 just as the rain began, to hand over to Job van Uitert, who soon found himself buried in the wall after aquaplaning off the track, causing significant damage to the Oreca. Tom Gamble, who had taken over from Jonathan at the halfway point, also had contact with the wall, but managed to bring the car back for the team to change the front nose and send him back out again on wet tyres. Job eventually made his way back to the pits, under safety car, with significant damage to the front end of the #32. The team changed the nose and sent him back out, but a lap later he was back in the pits with a front wishbone needing to be changed. The team got him back out on track, but the time spent in the garage dropped them out of contention for the win they showed they had the pace for in the early stages of the race. The #22 Oreca suffered another spin towards the later stages of the race, which dropped them down to seventh at the chequered flag. The #32 Oreca finished 16th and seven laps down, with the #22 crossing the line seventh.
“It was a very disappointing weekend for us. We had a race winning package but we did everything to mess it up. We have let the team down today. Fundamentally, the guys did a fantastic job in the pit stops and the preparation and the car has been in the perfect window all weekend. Although I didn’t optimise everything on Saturday in qualifying I think I began to compensate today but it’s just a shame it all fell apart.”
“It was a tricky race, start to finish. Phil had a good start and got us up to second but then got a track limits violation which gave us a drive through. He managed to drive back up to P3. In my stint, it got a bit wet towards the end and then Tom got in the car and we didn’t know what was going to happen from one minute to the next, the weather was so unpredictable. Tom ended up crashing in the wet but got it back to the pits but it then went downhill from there and we got another drive through. But onto the next one.”
“That was a really tough race. It was difficult from the start with the drive through for track limits which they have been really strict on this weekend. I jumped in the car still in quite a good position, but I made a mistake and had contact with the barriers, which I was lucky to get away with really. I made it back to the pits and we could put different tyres on too. But it was a messy race from then on really. I struggled with pace in the wet and then got a drive through. It felt like everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. A race to forget really.”
Job van Uitert
“Firstly, I want to say how sorry I am to the team for the result today. They didn’t deserve to finish so far down when we had the pace to win the race. The conditions were awful and I’m not making excuses but in those conditions, when you just hit the wrong spot you are a passenger and there’s not a lot you can do. Unfortunately, my contact with the wall was pretty heavy, but the team did so well to get the car back out again. Hopefully at Paul Ricard we will be able to show where we should be – and that is at the front!”
“Not the ideal result, but I think we showed where we should have been and that we should have finished higher up so it’s onto the next one.”
“Obviously I’m a little bit disappointed with the final result, it’s not what we wanted or what we deserved. We proved all weekend long that we were really strong on pace. Qualifying was really strong. We had the car to win the race and once again we showed we had the pace but now we need to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. But I think the whole team did a great job and I want to give a shout out to all the mechanics for putting the car back together after Job’s incident to get us back on track – they did a great job. Heads down and we focus on the next race.”
The LMP3 team also started the race really well, with both Rob Wheldon and Andrew Bentley lining up second and third on the grid. Rob made his usual great start and was leading the race by the end of the first lap. Andrew also had a good first stint running in the top five before handing the car over to Jim McGuire. At the halfway mark, Jim handed the #3 over to Duncan Tappy, who went out on slicks before having to pit again to change to wets as the rain began to fall.
After two hours, Rob handed the #2 Ligier over to Edouard Cauhaupe in the lead of the race, who also had to deal with the imminent threat of rain. Unfortunately for Edouard, his stint was run almost entirely under a safety car due to the horrendous track conditions, but he did a fantastic job keeping the car on track before handing it over to Wayne Boyd. Wayne struggled with a broken windscreen wiper for the duration of his stint and also picked up a drive through penalty after a miscommunication led to him leaving the pits when the red light was on, which dropped them down the order after leading the first half of the race by over 23 seconds. The #3 Ligier also struggled with pace, after starting the race in third after another good qualifying performance by Duncan Tappy. They ultimately crossed the line ninth, with the #2 finishing sixth.
“A very disappointing race for us. We aren’t having much luck at the start of this championship. But what we can take away is that the pace is very, very strong from all three of us. At the start, the race was going to plan, Rob did a fantastic first stint and then Edouard got in and we had a good lead. He did a fantastic job on slicks not to fire it off under safety car. Then I got in and we had an issue at the end of the pit lane, which we got a penalty for. Then we had an issue with the wiper being broken in the horrendous conditions. Not ideal, but thanks to all the boys for their efforts this week. The car was always mega and we will move onto Le Castellet in a few weeks and hope for a better race there.”
“It was our second bad race in a row. We were leading the race and Rob did a really good first half of the race. But then the rain came, we lost the lead and we got a drive through. It wasn’t the result we expected and we need to be stronger to get a better result at Le Castellet.”
“The first stint was really good, but we have struggled a bit with the car all weekend, but we still had the pace to lead, and we had a reasonable margin when I pitted. Of course, the weather threw a curveball and it unravelled a bit from there. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on our side this time, but we will give it another go in Ricard.”
“It was great to see Duncan bring the car home in the top-10. We had a tough race. During my stint on the second lap my brakes locked going into turn three and I spun but luckily avoided the wall. The tyres were shot but I kept pushing hard and brought it in for Duncan to take over. Never quit!”
“We’ve got to take the positives and we didn’t get a penalty today, which a lot of cars did. It was an odd stint for me, probably the worst conditions I’ve seen under a safety car. The pace was good in the wet and the set-up has been good all weekend. As usual, Doc and the guys have done a really good job. I struggled to get any momentum going and it just didn’t go our way again. It was just a case of not making any mistakes given the conditions, which we did. Now we look forward to the next one where we will try and improve again.”
“For my part I had a fairly steady start. There was a lot going on and I tried to stay out of trouble. The pace was quite good, but I had a few issues with P2 traffic which dropped me down a few spots, but I think my pace was strong. I handed a clean car over to Jim. Strategy was good and everyone’s pace was good and we did well to not get any penalties!”