United Autosports have announced their intentions on this year's Avon Tyres British GT Championship by unveiling a driver pairing featuring two of 2011's front-runners. The Anglo-American squad's British championship assault has been scaled back to a single Audi R8 LMS, alongside campaigning McLaren MP4-12C in the Blancpain Endurance Series.
“We need to step up from being a race-winning team to becoming a championship-winning team,” said team co-owner, Richard Dean. “The BGT has become a serious series with professional teams and competitive drivers; this driver line-up gives us every chance to compete for the title. We are in our third season with Audi and it is a very competitive package we have put together.”
Yorkshireman Matt Bell remains with the team for a third season, his second in the British GT Championship. However, in the coming season he will share the car with Charles Bateman, who drove for UA's title rivals Scuderia Vittoria last season.
Between them they scored three wins during the 2011 season – Bell scored United Autosports' first ever win alongside Mike Guasch at Snetterton. Meanwhile Bateman was part of the winning team at both Oulton Park and Donington Park, where he and then co-driver Michael Lyons won the season's only three hour event.
“Last year was my first in BGT and it was a good first season finishing with two wins and a third in the championship,” said Bateman. “I think the series will be even more competitive this year and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m pleased to be racing with Matt rather than against him as I did last year! I think the Audi R8 LMS is the GT3 car to be driving this year as it’s a proven winner and I’m excited to be getting the chance to get behind the wheel. It will also be good that Matt knows the Audi inside out and that should help me get up to speed quickly with the car.”
The winning pedigree comes at a cost, as Bell and Bateman would incur a time penalty under new rules for the 2012 season. Pairings of two C-category drivers such as Bell and Bateman will have to serve a mandatory pitstop four seconds longer than their rivals as series organisers SRO seek to balance the performance of the different driver combinations. Other combinations of the different driver categories will be given ballast.
The season begins on the Easter Weekend at Oulton Park with a pair of one hour races on The Cheshire track.