United Autosports co-owner Richard Dean described his team's progress over the three day 'Roar Before The 24' Rolex Series test session as among the best in Daytona Prototype field.
Like many of the other teams the four men crewing the #23 Ford-Riley – entered under the United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing banner – peaked on Sunday – the final day of the three day test for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Former F1 and Indycar driver Mark Blundell ran the fastest lap for the team (1:40.904, 127.011mph) in the morning session, good enough for fifth fastest in the session and thirteenth best across the entire three days.
“I drove in to the Speedway for the first time in my life on Thursday morning and it was an awesome sight – let's face it the venue and race is known worldwide,” he said after the test. “I drove on 'ovals' in my Indycar career and I never found it to be a big deal but the banking here at Daytona is over 30 degrees. Problems can arise coming off the banking in to the infield section which makes life interesting.”
“There are no references at Turn 1 while the high-speed chicane, called the 'bus-stop', can also be tricky due to the same problem, but after three-days, I've gradually got to know my way around and I now feel comfortable.”
Incredibly Blundell is the least experienced of the team at Daytona. Fellow Briton Martin Brundle won the Daytona 24 Hours in 1988 – well before the Daytona Prototype era – and likened the sensation of preparing for his first professional race in 10 years to “riding a bike”, describing how he “quickly shook off the rust and dropped back in to the groove.”
The foursome is completed by Zak Brown – also team co-owner – and Mark Patterson. New York state resident Patterson is the most experienced member of the team as this year's Rolex 24 will be his seventh start in the race and his sixth in a Daytona Prototype.
“We made excellent progress over the three days to the point that we have a real good, fast race car,” said Patterson. “I've been with Michael Shank Racing for a number of years in GRAND-AM and I believe this test has shown Zak and Richard made a great choice to run with them in conjunction with United Autosports. We possibly made slower progress than other teams but peaked on Sunday at exactly the right time. Mark, Martin and I all set out best times of the test on the final day and that is exactly what you want.”
The United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing team will return for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, held this year on January 29-30.