United Autosports went into the Spa 24 Hours in search of a podium in their first major endurance race and the Anglo-American team left the Ardennes with just that after the no.68 Audi R8 LMS finished third in the GT3 class.
In a race which saw many of the well fancied Audi customer teams hit problems the car shared between Zak Brown, Richard Dean, Eddie Cheever and Mark Blundell finished as the best Audi in the race, missing out on class honours behind the Muhlner Motorsport Porsche and Marc VDS Ford GT.
“I'm absolutely delighted with what our team has achieved this weekend,” said Brown, who together with Richard Dean is also a co-owner of the team who added; “The United Autosports did not exist six months ago. To achieve third and fourth places and be the best placed Audi team with both cars finishing, I have to be proud.”
However Dean, Brown and the rest of the team felt that a chance of a class win has slipped past.
The quartet had methodically worked their way through the field with a relatively trouble free performance, Zak Brown however admitting to spinning the car – “but in a 24 hour race that's not too bad!” he said.
Finally they took the class lead after 19 hours racing with Zak Brown at the wheel. However, when, an hour later they were on the verge of re-taking the lead, Eddie Cheever was controlling a huge “moment” through Eau Rouge, Cheever deeming himself “lucky not to crash”. It took the squad two pitstops and 43 minutes to diagnose a power steering problem dropping the car to third in class, where it would finish, completing 503 laps in ninth position overall.
“I'm a little disappointed with only third place after leading GT3 and when a win looked realistic but that's endurance racing,” said Mark Blundell. “It looked like a win, I had one moment when another car hit me during the race. Double-stinting [approximately 140mins] after seven years out or a racecar has been tough.”
“I must admit I'm tired.”
The late problem left the no.68 car one place ahead of the sister no.67 car of Mark Patterson, Alain Li, Emil Assentato and Stefan Johansson.
Unlike their teammates the second car had a more eventful time around Spa-Francorchamps. The hours of darkness saw several off track excursions. American Assentato made two visits to the Les Combes gravel trap, one resulting in a safety car period to recover the Audi. His countryman Patterson had contact with a backmarker resulting in an 11 minute pitstop for repairs, while Johannson suffered a puncture in his stint shortly before 5am.
Despite these problems the Cerutti-sponsored car still improved its position to lie sixth in class (and tenth overall) by 8am, moving up to fourth in class over the remaining hours.