After scoring and unexpected, superb fourth place finish in the US racing debut United Autosports had added another Grand-Am Rolex Series race to its 2011 commitments.
The team, running a Ford-Riley in the Daytona Prototype class in a co-operative effort with Michael Shank Racing, finished fourth in Janaury's Rolex 24 at Daytona. Mark Blundell – a quarter of the team that pedalled the car at that event – is to take to the cockpit again at the Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead Speedway. Canadian Michael Valiante, who finished tenth at Daytona, will complete the line-up in the no.23 car.
“It's great to make such a quick return to the cockpit of the United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing Riley,” said Blundell. “The entry was only confirmed [on March 1] so I haven't had much time to think about it. But with flight tickets now booked, I am really looking forward to racing at Homestead. I raced there on a different circuit configuration in my IndyCar days but never previously raced on the Speedway/infield combined course. However, I had my first run in the no.23 Riley there last December.”
“It'll also be great to team up with Michael Valiante who I met for the first time at Homestead and then at Daytona – he is a very impressive driver. I must say a big thank you to Zak [Brown] for putting this deal together.”
The race in Miami, on March 5, is considered one of the toughest on the Rolex Series calendar due to the combination of the prolonged high-speed nature of the track and the intense sunshine of south Florida the race is run in.
United Autosports' expanding racing program in America complements the Legends of Motorsport historic series. The series was co-founded by Zak Brown (also co-owner of United Autosports) with a fleet of historic racers run from a hub in Indianapolis.
“To be making another Grand-Am appearance so soon after our Rolex 24 debut is fantastic,” said Brown's fellow co-owner Richard Dean. “I'm sure the no.23 can play an important part in this race and the series in the longer term. To have Mark [Blundell] who is now something of a regular for us [he races at Spa for a second consecutive year], is an important endorsement and a sign of serious intent from United Autosports. We are also delighted to have Michael Valiante with us. Michael was hugely helpful at Daytona when driving for the 'sister' MSR car so we had a close-up at his very impressive ability and experience at this level.”
“I’m very happy that we have the opportunity to race the No.23 United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing entry once again at Homestead,” said Shank. “Having two drivers with the speed, experience and star power that Mark and Michael bring is just fantastic. This is a partnership that I’m personally very excited about and we had a great first race together with our run to fourth in the 24. I’m very pleased that we are able to continue with this program for Homestead and I’m optimistic that we will see this car racing in the Rolex Series a few more times this year.”