Despite good pace throughout the weekend United Autosports' new driver pairing of Charles Bateman and Matt Bell could only come away with a fifth place finish from the first two races of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship.
The pair dominated the first of the two hour long races on Easter Monday at Oulton Park, Bateman converting pole in a handy early lead, even after a period behind the safety car bunched the pack back up in the first half of the race.
Despite the additional four seconds the team had to serve in the pits – designed to balance the performance of the different grades of drivers found in the championship – Bell emerged back in the lead and, though his six second advantage was whittled down to four in the dying laps the 22-year-old still looked odds to score his second victory in the British GT Championship.
However, half way round the final lap a fuel pick-up stopped the Audi R8 LMS dead, giving away what would have been a fine win in tricky conditions.
“The car felt great,” Bateman reflected on the race. “I got a clean start, made a gap, then the safety car came out, which I sort of expected, and we still had a few minutes for the pit window to open. I made a good restart and handed the car over to Matt and he did a great job until unfortunately we had the issue with the fuel pick-up with less than half a lap to go. It's a shame but we showed we're consistent; probably not the ultimate pace but we're there or thereabouts.”
Bell had to start the second race from the rear of the field after his qualifying times were deleted after he passed under yellows during the session. In the company of other top cars starting from the back after their own problems.
“Starting from the back was always going to be a big ask and at the start it was like someone dropped a blanket over my windscreen; I couldn't see a thing with the spray,” said Bell. “It was the wettest we'd had it all weekend and it made it very difficult coming through slower cars where you couldn't even see their brake lights at all. I struggled on the old tyres with standing water and aquaplaned a few times, which is interesting around Oulton Park with the barriers looming!”
Bell worked up to be battling just outside the top ten by the half way point in the race, handing the car back to Bateman to take to the checkered flag. Just as in the first race when he pulled out a lead, Bateman's quality behind the wheel served him well against the 'gentlemen' drivers of other pairings.
Bateman climbed into the top ten, taking fifth place from Steve Parish's Motorbase run Porsche in the closing laps despite a growing vibration as one of the tyres started to come apart on the Audi.
“Matt played a huge part in recovering from Saturday's penalty which put him to the back of the grid,” said team owner and MD Richard Dean. “I wouldn't swap him and Charles for anybody on the grid. I don't think we got everything we deserved this weekend but we got points with fifth place round Oulton Park in big cars like these in atrocious conditions, so all credit to them. I'm very buoyant going into the rest of the season.”