- Bell & Patterson recover from 22nd to claim fifth place in opening race
- Race One first corner “assault” deprives team of likely podium finish
- Race Two contact cruelly robs UA of possible top result – once again
United Autosports recorded a fifth and an unrepresentative 22nd in the two, one-hour races staged at the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium today (Saturday 12 July).
Both Patterson and Bell qualified 13th fastest in the 36-car field – having set the eighth fastest combined time with a time 0.5 seconds quicker in practice – with just two “flying laps” possible around the 4.35-mile track in the 15 minute time trials on Friday afternoon – both sessions staged on a dry track.
Contact on lap one in the opening race dropped the Bell/Patterson Audi down to 22nd on the second lap but the Anglo-American duo fought back well, the R8 actually the fastest car on the track in the closing stages, to record fifth place – the team’s best placing since the opening BGT round in April.
In Race Two, Bell’s Audi was assaulted from behind entering the final corners before the start-finish line just as the race was set to resume. The resultant puncture and time consuming “in lap” ruled out another likely top-six placing – unfortunately epitomising the cruel luck United Autosports has endured in the 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship story.
The penultimate round of the 10-race BGT is staged at Brands Hatch in Kent on 31 August.
#23 Allied World / Henderson– Audi R8 LMS ultra
Matt Bell (GB). Age: 25. Born: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne & Wear, England. Lives: Barningham nr Richmond, North Yorkshire, England.
“The free practice sessions were positive with good pace in both giving me the confidence I could challenge for ‘pole’. But I can only imagine the change in track and weather conditions combined to go against us and the lack of grip meant I went half a second slower than in practice to qualify a very disappointing 13th.
“For the umpteenth time this season, Mark was driven into but thankfully the contact caused no significant damage although we lost a fair chunk of time. He went on to drive an excellent stint with good pace. The United Autosports guys did a great pit-stop gaining us places, I was stuck behind a Ferrari for a couple of laps but once clear was able to set quick lap times to the finish with the Audi back to its best.
“My stint in the second race was difficult due to a similar lack of grip like I’d experienced in qualifying so we must analyse this problem. Then just as the race was due to go green again after a Safety Car period, the car behind smashed into the back of me causing right side bodywork damage around the wheel which instigated a puncture going through Eau Rouge which was not too pleasant. I limped back around very slowly to the pits by which time the driver change ‘window’ had opened.”
Mark Patterson (USA). Age: 62. Born: Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Lives: Bronxville, New York State, USA.
“Practice went well, only had one real flying lap in qualifying but I was enjoying being back in the Audi. It had rained before Saturday’s opening race and the track was wet or damp in places but drying fast so it was a last minute tyre call whether to go for wet or slicks. After my first installation lap I pitted to switch to slicks which meant I, along with a good number of other cars, started the race out of order behind the Safety Car.
“But at the start I was hit by a slick-shod Ferrari that had hammered down the inside of me at La Source and braked too late on a damp part of the track, hitting the Audi’s front right wheel but thankfully causing no lasting damage. The incident delayed me as I decided if the car was okay and let a number of cars past. The Audi was great allowing me to set some good lap times and then Matt drove like a demon to the flag.
“In the second race I took over from Matt and a cold right rear tyre made life exciting until it gained some heat. I got time nice fast laps in – including I think the fastest ‘Am’ lap at the finish.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“We had high hopes for the British GT weekend at Spa. It’s a track we all love and Mark and Matt have a good record there and it was great to have Mark back for the weekend. We started well in practice but then in qualifying the pace dropped slightly, maybe due to the change in weather conditions but we still fought through to finish fifth in race one, showing the true pace of the Audi. The second race was hugely disappointing. To be hit from behind again on the safety car restart meant we dropped right down the field but we managed to be the fastest car on track at the end of the race, again showing what great pace the Audi has. We will move on from this to the next round at Brands Hatch and see what awaits us there.”
July 11-12 Spa-Francorchamps (two, one hour races)
Rd 7 Qualifying: 13th (Patterson), 2m 28.348s. Weather: Sunshine/dry.
Race: 5th, + 37.931s. Weather: Damp/drying.
Rd 8 Qualifying: 13th (Bell), 2m 23.206s. Weather: Overcast/dry.
Race: 22nd (+30.193s). Weather: Overcast/dry.