Tiff Needell made a surprise appearance at the British GT testing at Silverstone as Anglo-American team United Autosports searches for a stand-in for Pablo Perez Companc.
The team, which plans to run a pair of Audi R8 LMS cars in the series this year originally intended to pair the Argentine with American Zak Brown, also co-founder of the team, alongside a second car for all American line-up Mike Guasch and Mark Patterson.
According to co-founder Richard Dean the team, and the driver himself, believed this season would be Perez's “comeback year” after recovering from horrific injuries suffered in the 2007 Indy Pro Series race at Homestead-Miami. However, as the team began preparations to debut the R8 LMS in the British series they were forced to reconsider the move.
“We did a two day test in Portimoa with him with these cars and it was clear he was in some pain and discomfort,” said Dean. “You've got to feel sorry for him, he's had 26 operations on his legs and now it looks like he's got to have another operation.”
“We're waiting for news on how big an operation, how long it's going to put him out and then we can make a decision.”
As for whether Needell could be making a longer return to the cockpit is unclear. “We're looking at a whole bunch of people,” explained team principal John Della Penna during a red flag in the three hour test session.
“Tiff's an option,” conceded Dean. “It's been thrown at us, an overnight change that we're looking at,” he continued, explaining how Needell fits in to the all-important driver grading central to the GT3 series.
The session which saw much of entry list represented was topped by defending champions Godfrey and David Jones in the Ascari KZR1 with a fastest time of 1:53.252, despite completing the fewest laps of any other top runners. The Team Pyro prepared car was over half a second faster than the Brown/Needell Audi, with the Rollcentre Racing Mosler third, the car officially only listed with Martin Short as the driver, despite several others taking stints behind the wheel of the black and green machine.
The ABG Motorsport KTM X-Bow was the fastest in the G4 class on 2:00.574, over three seconds faster than their nearest competitor.