If there was an award in racing for busiest debut season then in 2010 United Autosports would have at least been on the short list
The Anglo-American team ran a pair of Audi R8 LMS full season in the FIA GT3 European Championship – Mike Guasch, Zak Brown, Matt Bell and Mark Patterson sharing the driving duties. Plus an two car entry in the Spa 24 Hours, the team taking a class podium among the GT3 machinery, an entry to the ILMC race at Zhuhai and the GT race of the Macau Grand Prix weekend.
2011 will see another series added to their commitments as the Yorkshire based team turns some of its attention to domestic racing, with the team taking on a full British GT season with drivers John Bintcliffe and Jay Palmer joining Bell and Gausch for the campaign with backing from British firm Draper Tools.
Joining the championship drops the squad and its drivers into what could be one of the most competitive British GT seasons ever, as Matt Bell explains. “Obviously this year some of the major new manufacturers coming in,” said Bell at the Autosport International Show. “The new Mercedes package looks very competitive, obviously we've got a lot of news about the Ferrari 458 – that looks good as well – the new Porsche, they always put together a strong package. So, it' going to be a very competitive series, all we can really do is concentrate on developing ourselves, developing this car.”
2010 saw both the car and team improve – gaining experience as the FIA levelled out the balance of performance over the course of the season until the team began challenging for podiums at the end of the season – Bell and Brown finishing third at the penultimate weekend. “It sort of went with the team,” analyses Bell. “The rule brakes came off, the team developed, the more I drove the car the more comfortable I became in it – the only difficulty was learning the tracks, most of them I'd never been to.”
That particular problem is not one the 20-year-old has to worry about so much this year, saying the only British tracks he hasn't driven around are Donington and the Snetterton's new '300' layout. However, it is the series' trip to Spa and April 25th's season opening Oulton Park races that Bell sees as his personal highlights of the season.
“That's a pretty epic circuit,” he says of the Belgian track. “I think my third ever race was in a Ginetta G20 around Spa and I absolutely love that track. I think it was about a four minute lap in that thing, so I'm hoping it'll be a bit quicker in this. So I'm certainly looking forward to that round.”
The United Autosports garage at British GT rounds will also host John Bintcliffe – the man perhaps best known for his stint in the BTCC, also with Audi – though he says the thought of returning under the four rings was not what brought him back to racing.
So what did?
“Half a dozen beers,” he jokes, seemingly recounting an evening with new co-driver Jay Palmer. “Shall we do it? Shall we do it? What do you think? Let's go for it and then that was pretty much it.”
“We had a look around what was available and I knew a few teams obviously and I knew Richard [Dean, team co-owner]. We went and had a look at what Richard was doing and I was really impressed and having owned a team myself it's easy to see between the woodwork if you know what I mean. We liked the concept of this particular car, we like the whole package and for us it was a no brainer I think.”
“To learn a lot,” says veteran Bintcliffe when asked what he expects from the season. “I haven't even got a clue what to expect really, we're just going to turn up and whoever's there, we're there. We're just going to turn up see who's there and we'll see what we do.”
But, despite the British commitments the busy season remains for the team, kicking off at the Rolex 24 at Daytona before a return to the European GT Championship running alongside the British campaign. Richard Dean also confirmed the team would return to Macau for a second year, as well as taking three cars to the Spa 24 Hours.