After losing further ground in the points standings at Donington Park United Autosports pairing Michael Guasch and Matt Bell will approach the Silverstone finale of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship in “full attack” mode.
The 'GT500' weekend at Donington Park (September 24-25) was difficult for the entire United Autosports squad.
John Bintcliffe crashed the no.24 Audi R8 LMS in qualifying, hitting the barriers at McLeans during the 45 minutes session causing enough damage to the right rear corner of the car to rule he and co-driver Jay Palmer out of the three hour race.
“I caught the curb on the inside at McLeans and pivoted around at high-speed,” Bintcliffe explained. “The gravel trap didn't take any speed off and I impacted the small tire wall positioned just in front of the concrete barrier very hard. It was a big impact. I am gutted for Jay and the team. It was my first run on new tires and it was looking to be a quicker lap despite a couple of mistakes earlier in that lap.”
Bell meanwhile put the sister no.23 car fourth for the start of the race on a damp track, with Guasch tasked with driving the first stint in difficult conditions.
Guasch slipped back to sixth in the early running before making contact with the Mtech Ferrari of Duncan Cameron at the Melbourne Hairpin. The contact opened the bonnet of the Audi forcing the American to pit immediately for the team to repair the damage and tape the bodywork back down, losing two laps in the process.
“I braked a little late and ran up the back of the Ferrari, my front right corner into his rear left spinning him around,” said Guasch. “The hood flew up so I went straight to the pits and the guys put it back together the best they could in the minimum amount of time. Our pace was there today, we were just unfortunate.”
Though the team opted not to use the forced stop to perform one of the three mandatory driver changes during the remainder of race both drivers moved the car back up the order, aided in part by retirements ahead and three safety car periods.
The final intervention set up a final 15 minute sprint, Bell within sight of Gordon Shedden in the sixth placed Rosso Verde Ferrari 458, though he was unable to gain one final place.
The CRS Racing team of Jim and Glynn Geddie finished fifth to extend the lead at the top of the standings while the Ferrari of Cameron and Matt Griffin completed the podium in third as so moved both drivers ahead of the Bell and Guasch in the points standings.
The United Autosports men now lie 11 points off the championship lead but, with the two hour Silverstone (October 8-9) race offering up 37.5 points for victory, still in with a chance of giving United Autosports the title in their first full British GT season.
“Today has probably the hardest drive I have ever had,” Bell admitted. “It was pretty difficult with some heart in mouth moments trying to overtake as the car was not right after the collision. Our result leaves Mike and I with a mountain to climb due to our main competition finishing ahead of us.”