- Official Prologue and opening round held on the same weekend for 2018 season opener
- Double championship winning LMP3 team return to ELMS to begin title defence
- Anglo American team expands to two LMP2 cars in ELMS
- Three Ligier JS P3s for second season in Michelin Le Mans Cup
United Autosports are preparing for the opening rounds of both the European Le Mans Series and Michelin Le Mans Cup this week (12-15 April).
Ahead of the first round, the LMP2 and LMP3 teams will take part in the official Prologue, with the ELMS Prologue held on 9-10 April and the Michelin Le Mans Cup Prologue taking place on the 11 April.
Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer return to United’s LMP2 team, racing the #32 Ligier JS P217 alongside Wayne Boyd, who graduates to LMP2 from our LMP3 team. United Autosports will be fielding two Ligier JS P217s in 2018, with Will, Hugo and Wayne being joined by Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque in the #22 Ligier JS P217. Bruno Senna will be taking Filipe’s seat for the Paul Ricard opener, due to Filipe’s US racing commitments, which prevent him racing at Le Castellet.
Our 2017 ELMS LMP3 Champions John Falb and Sean Rayhall return to the team for a second year, with the intention of defending their title in the #2 Ligier JS P3. The #3 Ligier will be driven by Tony Wells, Matt Bell and newcomer to the team, Garett Grist. Tony and Matt previously raced together for United Autosports in the LMP3 Cup last year, while Matt is a regular to United Autosports. Tony also raced in the ELMS and Michelin Le Mans Cup in 2017, so has previous knowledge of each track. Canadian, Garett is new to the team and has never raced on the European circuits, but settled into the team well at their pre-season test at Portimao last month.
This year, United Autosports are running three cars in the Michelin Le Mans Cup. Matt Bell is doubling up racing duties, returning to the #22 AERO Ligier JS P3 alongside Jim McGuire. This weekend’s Michelin Le Mans Cup race will mark Matt’s 100th race with United Autosports. Richard Meins also returns to the team in the #23 Gulf Marine liveried Ligier JS P3, alongside our 2016 ELMS LMP3 Champion, Christian England. The #32 Ligier will be piloted by newcomers Naj Husain and Colin Braun for our third full season entry. Colin is unable to race at Paul Ricard, due to also having conflicting IMSA racing commitments, meaning Naj will be joined by single-seater racer, Mahaveer Raghunathan for the opening round.
Track action begins tomorrow, Monday 9 April, at 09:00 for the ELMS prologue. The race weekend begins on Friday 13 April at 10:00 with Michelin Le Mans Cup free practice, with their two-hour race beginning at 16:00 on Saturday 14 April. The four-hour ELMS race begins at 12:00 on Sunday 15 April.
“I’m really looking forward to being back out on European soil. I’m much more familiar with the circuits. Having been racing in the States over the winter months it has acted as excellent preparation for ELMS. It’s definitely one of the strongest if not the strongest LMP2 grids ELMS has had, making it all the more exciting for me, especially returning this year to ELMS with United Autosports who finished a close second last year. I’m just counting down the days until I can get out on track.”
"After missing out on Sebring for personal reasons, I'm more motivated than ever to get back in the car with United Autosports. It's going to be double debut for me, with the first time racing in the ELMS and also sharing the car with Phil Hanson, so there's a lot to learn and I'll push to have the best debut possible!"
“It's finally that time again. The start of the 2018 ELMS season is here and we are back stronger than before. My journey with United back home to Daytona continued to teach me about the Ligier LMP2 car and I'm hoping that my improved effort in the gym this off-season will pay dividends on track this year. I'm excited to race with Wayne and Hugo and although we are an all silver line-up, we will definitely be aiming to competing at the top. From what we have seen so far this year, Ligier's continued development on the LMP2 has made some clear improvements and I am excited to get back in the car on all the European tracks that I now know. Last year I had so many new things to learn like the new tracks, driver changes and racing in traffic, but this year I feel very well prepared and ready to push for it all. Certainly we will need to be at our best to win this competitive championship.”
Hugo de Sadeleer:
"It’s amazing to be back with United Autosports in 2018 and I'm overjoyed to be sharing my seat with Will again. We achieved so much in our rookie year and now that we have that experience, we can keep progressing and minimize our mistakes. Wayne is a logical addition to our LMP2 programme, not only is he an amazing character, he's one of the quickest LMP3 drivers out there and no stranger to the team. I was there for his initial test at Aragon and he got on well, so I’m really pleased to have him as my teammate. Finally, with the addition of a second car, United has given us even more potential to perform and I'm super excited to start the season."
“I’m really looking forward to Paul Ricard, it’s been a very long winter!! Back with United Autosports for my third season and moving up to LMP2, I can’t wait. We have two very important test days so I can learn as much as possible but I’m confident with the amount of experience around me I’ll be up to speed quickly! Driving alongside Hugo and Will is also something I’m looking forward to. We always got on well last year and with a year under their belts they’ll be able to lead the team well.”
“We had a good pre-season test at Portimao, despite the weather. Paul Ricard should be great – I’m really looking forward to getting back to the team and getting back behind the wheel of the car. A long week in the south of France and I’m ready to get the season kicked off.”
“I'm very excited to return to the European Le Mans Series with United Autosports to defend our 2017 title. Paul Ricard was very good to us last year and I know our team has been working hard during the off season. I can't wait to get to France and get back to trophy hunting with John Falb.”
“We’ve got the Prologue before the first round, where hopefully we will continue with the testing work we started at Portimao – it should be a bit drier in the south of France than in was in Portugal! We are going into this challenging for the championship and that is our ultimate aim. It’s going to be probably the most competitive year of the series so we are aware of the challenge from others that will be out there but we feel we are in pretty good shape and we are confident going into the first race.”
“So the waiting is over and finally we get to go racing again. And what better than starting the year with a week of driving round Paul Ricard! How lucky am I. Garrett and Matt were properly on the pace in testing, the team was their usual friendly and super professional selves, so I guess I need to make sure I deliver on pace and consistency and hopefully we could be in for a good year.”
“I settled into the team really well – everyone’s so welcoming. Looking ahead to Paul Ricard – I’ve never been there so I’m looking at lots of video and data to prepare as much as I can. We have the prologue beforehand which will help. Matt’s experience will help and I’ll try and learn as much as I can from him and I’m looking forward to working with Tony too. I can’t wait to get started.”
“Last season was an absolute dream for me, racing with Matt Bell in Europe with United Autosports in our AERO-painted Ligier JS P3. The treatment of gentleman drivers in the MLMC is just epic, and the program that UAS has developed for Matt and I is really letting us drive our progress and development forward into 2018. As a technology entrepreneur, I can really appreciate the approach United Autosports takes with management and product performance, so that every single race we’re delivering the best package possible. I’m thrilled to see how it all unfolds at Paul Ricard, and for the whole 2018 season.”
“It’s going to be a busy week for me, doing both Michelin Le Mans Cup and ELMS. It’s the first time I’ve done both series on one weekend, but I’m sure it will all work out well. I’m looking forward to driving with Jim again. We are fresh from our race at Sebring in the LMP3 car so all ready to go for the European series. Our aim is to build on the progress we made last year. We ended up with a podium at the final round, Jim came on hugely by the end of the season and at the Gulf 12 Hours at the end of the year. However, the competition has stepped up a notch and the series looks as competitive as it’s ever been. I’m confident we can be more competitive than last year with the focus on more than learning this year, we want to get some results so I’m pretty excited to get going.”
“I’m really looking forward to returning to United Autosports and entering my second year in the Michelin Le Mans Cup. I have experience of all the circuits now so I’m more confident going into my second season. I’m looking forward to working with Christian too. He’s an LMP3 Champion and has lots of LMP3 mileage under his belt so I’m sure I can learn from him too. I can’t wait for the season opener at Paul Ricard.”
“I’m really looking forward to getting to work with Richard [Meins] and kick off the season opener at Paul Ricard. The Michelin Le Mans Cup looks extremely competitive this year, so we need to work hard to try and get some good results. I’m really thankful to be able to return to United Autosports for a third consecutive season. The team feels like family to me and that’s a huge part of why I love the racing. I’m sure Richard and I will have some great racing, great fun and overall a great experience this year travelling around some of Europe’s finest race tracks.”
“We had a great test at Portimao and it’s great to be with a top notch team. For me it’s getting to the European tracks that I’m most excited about. I’ve never raced at Paul Ricard so the prologue will be my first experience of it and I’m looking forward to getting started.”
“I am excited to race in the first round of the Michelin Le Mans Cup with a top team like United Autosports. I look forward to work with Naj who has a lot of experience in the prototype cars. I tested the Ligier JS P3 last year and found it suited my driving style. I am thankful to Richard [Dean] and Naj for giving me this opportunity and I am looking forward to helping the team win at Paul Ricard, which is one of my favourite circuits. I have fond memories of my podium finish there in 2017 in the Auto GP car.”
Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports:
“I’m looking forward to the start of the 2018 season. We are entering our third year with the Ligiers and we’ve had two LMP3 championships and a second place in LMP2 in our debut year, which is a great record. I’m excited to see what this year brings.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“I think we have had one of the busiest starts to the year I can remember but the team have done well to get us to this point. Running seven Ligiers on one weekend is the most we have ever run, but we are well organised and have the cars run by what is effectively three independent teams in the three series. We have some really strong driver line ups in all three teams, so I’m confident we can start the 2018 season where we finished 2017.”