- Bell & Patterson just miss out on top-three rostrum result
- Patterson slammed out of lead and into retirement in second race
- Brilliant team strategy gives United Autosports comfortable race lead
United Autosports placed fourth in the opening round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship meeting at Oulton Park today (Monday 21st April).
Matt Bell and Mark Patterson, who narrowly missed out on the 2013 BGT title, finished 8secs behind the winner in race one. Brilliant team strategy during the second race earned Patterson an amazing 12secs lead with just over 20 minutes of the race remaining but the US-Based South African was forced to retire when the leading Audi R8 LMS ultra was unceremoniously punted off the track while working through lapped cars.
Patterson started from sixth place on the 32-car grid in the opening race and ran much of his stint seventh, Mark actually pitting from fourth with 33mins remaining with Bell resuming fifth. Matt was embroiled in a six-car dice for third place for the early part of his stint and moved up to fourth with six minutes remaining – finishing just 0.306secs behind the third-placed car at the chequered flag.
In race two, Bell handed the 11th placed Audi over to Patterson with 28mins on the clock under Safety Car conditions – a great call in terms of timing from the United Autosports crew – which enabled Patterson to lead with 25mins remaining.
But Patterson’s glory was short-lived when a Ferrari, dicing with Mark for the lead, heavily “assaulted” the left side of the United Autosports Audi destroying its rear suspension resulting in the instant retirement of both cars.
United Autosports has now achieved eight top-six finishes in BGT races staged at the picturesque 2.692-mile Oulton track – including two runners-up spots in 2011 & ’13.
A two-hour race at Rockingham on Bank Holiday Monday (5 May) is the next stop on the 10-race BGT calendar.
#23 Allied World / Henderson– Audi R8 LMS ultra
Matt Bell (GB). Age: 24. Born: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne & Wear, England. Lives: Barningham nr Richmond, North Yorkshire, England.
“The United Autosports guys made some changes after qualifying which gave Mark and I a very nice, well balanced and fast race car for the opening race on Monday morning. I took over from Mark who had done a good job. We had very good pace and I was bitterly disappointed to only achieve fourth. The Aston that I was dicing with for third place was particularly aggressive in its defence of its position that at times I felt bordered on the unfair.
“I was quicker than the three cars ahead of me in the second race and the nature of Oulton denied me the opportunity to overtake but it was good, clean, hard racing. The guys made a great call to pit me when they did. Mark drove very well and comfortably until being taken out. I’m disappointed in terms of losing out on points and because it’s the first time I’ve not been on the podium in a BGT race at Oulton.”
Mark Patterson (USA). Age: 62. Born: Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Lives: Bronxville, New York State, USA.
“The Audi was great today. I lost a couple of places on the opening lap in race one, there were some incidents in front of me early on but I survived those. I ran almost a ‘lonely’ race in seventh for most of my stint. Unfortunately Matt was unable to get past a very wide Aston in the closing laps to get on the podium.
“The team’s pit-stop strategy was outstanding handing me a 12secs lead in the second race. I had an off across the grass at the chicane as I pressed too hard then two laps later the Ferrari rammed into the side of me. His front wheel tyre marks are on the Audi’s number panel and at no time was he ever ahead so I’m a little annoyed.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“Starting 11th and to be leading with around 20mins remaining in the second race was looking good in terms of the championship. We’d made a good call on the pit wall when to pit Matt – it was very close but we timed it bang on. Mark took over and a little mistake dropped him into the grasp of a Ferrari while the pair of them had around 12secs over the third placed car.
“But the Ferrari driver got a little too excited and misjudged his braking – he was subsequently given a penalty for the manoeuvre which destroyed the Audi’s left rear corner. Fourth place was as much as we could get out of race one. The Audi doesn’t have the outright straight line speed of some of our rivals but it excels on its brakes. A first and a fourth would have been a great start to the season but we won’t let our heads drop.”
April 19-21, Oulton Park (two, one hour races)
Rd 1: Qualifying: 6th (Patterson), 1m 37.268s. Weather: Bright/dry.
Race: 4th, +8.081. Weather: Bright/dry.
Rd 2: Qualifying: 11th (Bell), 1m 35.425s. Weather: Bright/dry.
Race: DNF (accident). Weather: Bright/dry.
British GT3 Drivers Championship:8th= Bell/Patterson, 12pts.
British GT3 Teams Championship: 7th, 12pts