United Autosports co-owners Richard Dean and Zak Brown are to join forces on track in the opening British GT round at Oulton Park this weekend.
The race will see Englishman Dean replace Pablo Perez Companc aboard the no.23 Remington sponsored Audi R8 LMS, the announcement coming after The Checkered Flag last week reported that Perez had been forced to postpone his racing comeback after testing with the team at the Portuguese Algarve circuit.
The team, and Dean himself, describe the move as a “one-off”, a decision made due to the short time between Perez's forced withdrawal and the Oulton Park races with a “permanent replacement” for both the British series and the FIA GT3 championship to be found before the first races for the latter series in May.
Dean brings considerable racing experience to his stint behind the wheel, not only as the only one for the team's driving quartet to have previously raced at Oulton Park, but also as a Gold Cup winner at the Cheshire circuit some 20 years ago, as well a British GT championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans class win in GT machinery.
“Pablo is having medical advice on his rehabilitation and everyone at United Autosports wishes him a speedy and full recovery,” he adds. “Because of the time constraints the simplest thing is for me to drive at Oulton Park then find a permanent replacement in time for the opening FIA races in May. I briefly drove the Audi R8 LMS in Portugal and again at Silverstone last week and it's a beautiful piece of engineering so it won't be too much of a hardship for me!”
“Unfortunately after the initial test at Algarve, Pablo suffered severe pain in his legs,” explains John Della Penna, the United Autosports' Sporting Director. “He is currently undergoing medical evaluation but at this stage, the prospect of him racing in this year's FIA GT3 European Championship is unlikely. I'm very disappointed for Pablo because I know how much the United Autosports program meant to him. But his health must come first. I personally wish him a fast return to the sport – he's not only a talented driver and intense competitor but a quality human being.”
Dean and Brown will form one half of the Audi customer team as they look to give the R8 LMS the perfect start to its first British GT season, with Americans Mike Gausch and Mark Patterson in the sister no.22 car.
“Oulton marks the first race for Michael and I in England and having spent the last five years competing in the GRAND-AM Road Racing Series in North America,” says New York State resident Patterson. “I'm sure I'll definitely find big, big differences both on and off the track. I've watched videos of races at Oulton Park and it looks an incredibly challenging course with amazing elevation changes.”
Photo credit: Alfonso Lygo