On what driver Matt Bell described as a “brilliant day” United Autosports scored their first victory, taking the lead on the final lap to win the two hour Avon Tyres British GT Championship race at Snetterton.
Team managing director and co-owner Richard Dean summed up the mood in the squad; “achieving United Autosports' maiden race win has been hard to achieve but Zak and I have been extremely proud of the work ethic shown from every individual in the team and I'm sure we can go on and win more races. We made hard work of it but the victory was fully deserved. Mike and Matt both drove really well while Jay and John were fantastic – the entire team deserve this success and I'm personally delighted for everyone. Today's race was difficult but once again the Audi was especially strong in the second half of the race. Twenty-four hours earlier it had been a great effort from Matt in qualifying while John's performance was excellent considering his lack of miles in the Audi. ”
After starting second on the grid Michael Guasch was part of a battle for second with the Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari 458 Italia driven by Charles Bateman. Guasch initially lost out, running third when the safety car was called out after an accident involving the two Trackspeed Porsches. However, he retook second once the safety car was withdrawn, before coming into the pits to pass driving duties over to Bell at the first opportunity in the pit window.
Bell looked to have taken the overall lead, as the pitstop sequence unshuffled the pack as more an more teams made their mandatory driver change and refuelling stops. Officials had other ideas, deeming the no.23 to have not spent the minimum time in the pitlane and issuing a six second stop-go penalty to make up the deficit.
The penalty dropped Bell back to fourth, and exactly when Guasch had been – in a battle with Scuderia Vittoria. After several laps of challenging Michael Lyons in the car and the Audi surviving contact at the Montreal hairpin, Bell finally got the better of the Ferrari, and was quickly handed another slice of fortune when the second placed car retired after contact with a lapped car and the leader began to slow with damage.
The task looked easy, Bell gaining seconds a lap on the leader, but again the officials intervened, this time handing out a drive through penalty that looked to have ended any battle for the lead.
The race had one final twist, the leader's worsening damage earning him a black-and-orange 'meatball' flag just five laps from the end, driver Glynn Geddie pitting the car with less that 30 second left of the 120 minutes.
The delay was just enough for Bell, and the 21-year-old sped around the outside of Geddie at turn one, going on to set the car's fastest lap of the race on the final lap on his way to taking the checkered flag.
“It's a fantastic result for the team, Matt and I, and Audi,” praised Guasch. “It was hard work – we had a lot of bad luck and also a little good luck which evened out in our favor. I ran either second or third in my stint and there was a lot of carnage out there. Matt was released a little early costing us a stop-go penalty but Matt drove the wheels off the car – I'm thrilled.”
Contrary to drama that characterized the fight for the lead Jay Palmer and John Bintcliffe enjoyed a trouble free run to a very impressive fifth place in the pairs' third race back in motorsport.
“Jay and I are really chuffed with the result,” said Bintcliffe, who drove the second half the race. “We didn't get much running before qualifying due to a handling issue in the opening practice then changing weather affecting the second practice. I've had very limited running on new tyres but felt I'm making progress in terms of the technique required, especially in qualifying. I'd not previously driven the Audi for over an hour at any one time so on reflection I was perhaps a little conservative in terms of my race pace. Only issue was an attack from an Aston Martin. Overall, a magnificent result for the team with first and fifth places.”