The Paul Ricard weekend marked another step in United Autosports’ upward curve, British youngster Matthew Bell an impressive eighth on the grid for the first race, a position that put the no.23 Remington backed car the best Audi R8 LMS in the field on a weekend the prolific German machinery seemed off the pace of the other manufacturers.
Bell's momentum only improved early in the race after an second lap safety car, moving up as high as second, less than four seconds off the lead, before he handed the car to Zak Brown at the last possible moment during the ten minute pit window. The American was unable to maintain the car's early place slipping back to 13th, and out of the points by the end of the race. Michael Gausch and Mark Patterson in the no.22 finished 17th.
“A Lamborghini held me up at the start of Race One which cost me some places which I managed to get back further around the opening lap,” said Bell. “The Safety Car hampered our strategy. Our pace in the corners is good but we're slow on the straight compared to the competition which doesn't seem particularly balanced here.”
In the second race, the team were less fortunate – Brown, starting the car that had performed so well the day before was an innocent victim of the typical first lap incident, powerless to avoid an Aston Martin pointing the wrong way as he exited the corner. The contact damaged the Audi's steering and front suspension, bring an early and disappointing retirement on Independence Day.
Patterson, running at the back with his teammate managed to make it through the “ugly” incident, though Patterson seemed surprised to have emerged unscathed as the field scattered. The American duo, again turned in a reliable and steady run, making some progress from their low starting position to finish 18th.
But though the team remain yet to score a point Managing Director and co-owner Richard Dean remains positive given their continuing improvement.
“The no.23 Audi achieved our team's best qualifying result of the season and went on to record that car's best race result of the year and because we're disappointed, that shows how much we're expecting of ourselves now,” he said. “Both Mark and Michael did workmanlike jobs in the no.22 Audi to continue its 100% top-20 finishing record.”
United Autosports' whirlwind 2010 season continues apace, the American funded, British based squad going straight from Paul Ricard to the official test day for the Spa 24 Hours.