United Autosports brings curtain down on maiden BTCC season

  • Cole achieves personal and team’s best BTCC qualifying position
  • BTCC awards UA the 2014 Dunlop Spirit of the Championship Award

United Autosports brought the curtain down on its maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch - the Anglo-American team experiencing a rollercoaster of an event.

A damp track initially necessitated “wet” treaded tyres in qualifying on Saturday afternoon before the 30-car field switched to slicks. Cole, who had been as high as sixth, nevertheless ended up a fantastic seventh quickest – earning United Autosports its best ever BTCC start slot and the highest-placed Toyota. James’ Toyota had turned a wheel for the first time in only the second practice session on Saturday afternoon after its near total rebuild following the Silverstone shunt so it was a fine reward for the team who had made a gargantuan effort to ready the car in such a short space of time.

The 11-corner, 2.3-mile “Grand Prix” circuit was damp but drying for Sunday’s opening race with Cole surviving spinning cars at the first corner prior to a Safety Car period while Hines, who had started 17th, made up three places on the first lap before the caution period.

At mid-distance Cole and Hines lay a promising ninth and 14th respectively but James got pushed wide and lost six places on lap 14 and then unluckily encountered Luke’s 12th placed Toyota, that had been nudged into a spin, facing the wrong way in the middle track and unsighted, hitting his team-mate at unabated speed causing substantial damage to both cars.

It was another amazing effort by the UA crew to get both cars on the grid for the second race but unfortunately the race for Hines and Cole ended with a puncture and suspension damage plus overheating respectively. In the day’s final race held in wet conditions that like the previous two races, featured Safety Car phases, 17th (Hines) and 19th (Cole) placings were achieved.

It’s been a baptism of fire for the Anglo-American team in the 30-race series and in many respects the highs and lows the drivers and team experienced at Brands summarized the season as a whole. Over enthusiastic driving by other competitors often caused a premature end to proceedings for the UA pairing of Cole and Glynn Geddie – the latter replaced by Hines for the final Silverstone and Brands Hatch events.

Despite these setbacks and combined with a steep learning curve for the ambitious team in its first BTCC season, the team achieved 25 top-20 placings. Take into account Cole’s limited BTCC career, it being Geddie’s maiden BTCC season and substitute Hines revisiting the BTCC after a nine year absence, there are many positives for United Autosports to reflect upon over the winter months before the 2015 season commences. The team’s best race result were two 12th places (Geddie, Oulton Park & Snetterton) while Cole achieve a fastest race lap (Oulton).

The BTCC Administrator awarded the 2014 Dunlop Spirit of the Championship Awards to United Autosports “for all round team presentation”.

#20 Drivecool / Autoglym / HELLA – Toyota Avensis

James Cole (GB)

Age: 26. Born: Southport, England. Lives: Liverpool, England.

“Considering the lack of running prior to qualifying, a seventh place grid start was a fantastic effort especially taking into account the tricky conditions running on ‘slicks’ on a drying track. It was great to record United’s first BTCC top-10 race start.

“Race One began positively and shows that when you qualify at front you can stay there. But with around four laps remaining, the grip disappeared and I was overtaken by a ‘train’ of cars before unfortunately crashing into my team-mate’s car that had been spun around.

“The engine began to overheat in the second race while in the last race, I initially made a fantastic start, overtaking five or six cars in the wet, but tried a little bit too hard and went off in to the gravel. Visibility was poor but the car felt quite good.

“Definitely a positive weekend. We have made big progress throughout the season although the results do not necessarily show that.”

#23 Grand Prix Racewear / Autoglym / HELLA – Toyota Avensis

Luke Hines (GB)

Age: 32. Born: Hoddesdon, Herts. Lives: Silverstone, N’thants.

“The team continues to move forward with its BTCC programme by working hard. There was more time in the car and I in qualifying. It was the first time I’d every driven the Toyota in wet or damp conditions and I was caught out with the red flag.

“We didn’t achieve the [race] results we wanted or deserved today but there are many positives to take away. James and I could easily have recorded top-15 finishes in each race but incidents occur in touring car racing.

“I got tapped into a spin in the opening race when a top-12 looked an odds on result. The Toyota felt really nice in the second race until it had a suspension problem quite possibly as a result from the first race. The third race in the rain was a lottery. I have enjoyed the experience with United over the last two BTCC events.”

Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:

“Once again we haven’t got through a weekend without substantial damage. It was all looking so promising for James when he qualified seventh after a really good job. It was a big lift to the team and it’s first real reward for all of the year’s hard work.

“In Race One when one of our cars is spun around only for our other car to hit it is typical. In many respects that incident summed our year up. We certainly justified a top-10 finish today and could easily have recorded other top-15 finishes. We have a lot to take from the season.”

October 11-12 Brands Hatch (Grand Prix)

Rd 28 Qualifying: 7th #20, 1m 36.380s; 17th #23, 1m 36.380s. Weather: Cloudy/dry.

Race: Did not finish (accident) #23, -3 laps; Did not finish (accident) #20, -3 laps. Weather: Cloudy/dry. 

Rd 29 Start Pos: 22nd #23; 23rd #20.

Race: Did not finish (overheating) #20, -3 laps; Did not finish (suspension) #23, -12 laps. Weather: Cloudy/dry.

Rd 30 Start Pos: 19th #20; 20th #23.

Race: 17th #23, +25.542s; 19th #20, +29.721s. Weather: Rain/wet.

Final Championship standings:

Drivers' Championship: 22nd #21, Geddie, 15pts; 26th #20 Cole, 5pts; 29th Hines, 0pts

HiQ Teams’ Championship: 14th, 22pts

Independents Team Trophy: 11th, 138pts