- May 16, 2013
- Patterson and Bell on the Rockingham podium
- Brown makes bold move for the lead from second row
- United move to within one point of Championship lead
It was Mark Patterson and Matt Bell in the No. 25 Audi R8 LMS ultra that once again took the honours for United Autosports with a second successive championship podium, this time at the Rockingham Motor Speedway.
The sunny May Bank Holiday weekend saw the first of the 2013 season long-distance events. The two-hour race, with refueling and a compulsory driver change at around the 60 minute point, attracted a huge 33 car grid with some the best teams and drivers in Europe.
As the flag dropped, the powerful GT cars thundered onto the Rockingham oval banking. Patterson made a great start, up to fourth on the opening lap from a third row qualifying position. Meanwhile Brown drove around the outside of the Gregor Fisken (eventual race winners) Trackspeed Porsche to take third on the oval circuit banking. Brown’s momentum took him alongside the lead Porsches into the heavy braking zone and made a daring move for the lead. As the cars turned off the oval course and onto the Rockingham infield section Brown’s race was over as fast as it began, hit by the M-sport Audi and suffering terminal damage to the rear suspension.
As the race settled down, Patterson in the Audi R8 held fourth place, within touching distance of the leaders. Meanwhile Mark Blundell in the 24 McLaren MP4 12C was storming through the grid from a lowly 24th qualifying position. Blundell put in a superb drive to slice his way through the field, pitting in an impressive fifth place at the halfway stage. However, a mistake during the pit stop and driver change over to team debutant Jody Firth, meant that the pairing lost valuable time and quickly dropped back down the order. Firth would now be faced with a fight back from 18th place as he took to the track for his first race for the team. It was a tall order but one that Firth gave his all as he moved up to tenth and into the points with only 10 minutes remaining. It was looking to be a great debut and recovery drive, but all was lost after contact with a Mercedes ruled Firth out of the points positions.
As the pit stop window opened for the leaders, the heat was taking its toll on tyre wear and drivers. Patterson, still in forth position, had a spin; stopping hearts in the United hospitality area! Despite a quick recovery, the Audi dropped down to eighth place. A perfect pit stop for the United Audi crew had to include a compulsory 15 second pit stop penalty as a result of the success in the previous round. Matt Bell now behind the wheel for the last hour was now the quickest car on track. A dominant performance from Matt saw him progress through the field up to an eventual third place and final podium position. A just reward for the hard work of the entire United Autosports team.
The British GT Championship now moves to Silverstone, May 25/26, on the Grand Prix circuit for the seasons only three-hour race. The McLaren drivers have lots of work to do but the Audi of Patterson and Bell now sit second in the standings, only half a point off the Championship leaders.
Mark Patterson, Driver, United Autosports No 25. Audi R8 LMS ultra
“We had a good start and managed to break loose at the start and get into P4. I held that position for a while but it was pretty close. About three quarters of the way in I had a spin and lost a few places, eventually pitting in eighth. The car felt good, and it was a solid race until I made a mistake. Matt did a great job, and we have collected valuable championship points, so not a bad day.”
Matt Bell, Driver, United Autosports No. 25 Audi R8 LMS ultra
“Despite the time penalty we received after our podium finish at Oulton Park I am really happy with the result today. We certainly had the pace. Mark was going well, but the tyre degradation is massive here, and that just caught him out. I managed to get back up into fourth but towards the end my tyres started to go off. I was within touching distance of the Aston Martin just ahead, but I just couldn’t get a break with the traffic. All in all I’m happy to have collected points today. I’m looking forward to Silverstone.”
Zak Brown, Team Owner & Driver, United Autosports No. 23 McLaren MP4-12C GT3
“I got a really good start and was comfortably in second when I tried to make a pass for the lead going into turn 2. In hindsight I was too aggressive and went into the dirt. Once I got back on track in sixth place, I should have kept my cool, but I drove under the BMW in turn 3, and then someone drove straight into me. It was a hard hit and damaged the car and ended our race. The championship for Álvaro and I is now a tough call. I’m really disappointed. I’m really happy for both Mark and Matt; they did a great job to finish in the points.”
Mark Blundell, Driver, United Autosports No. 24 McLaren MP4-12C GT3
“It was a tough race. We worked hard to get the car into fifth by the end of the first hour. It was not easy, and we were slightly hurt by having to carry extra ballast. It makes overtaking really difficult, and you have to work really hard to manage your tyres. The guys did a great job with the car, but the disappointment was during the pit stop. It just did not go to plan, and we lost a huge amount of time so all that we gained out on the circuit we lost. I hold my hands up and know that we will need to sort out a better system so that does not happen again. On a positive note, we managed to overtake a load of guy’s out there so we know we can be competitive.”
Jody Firth, Driver, United Autosports No. 24 McLaren MP4-12C GT3
“It was a challenging afternoon. We started 24th, and Mark did a great job to get us through to fifth. We decided to pit late to make sure that the pit lane was clear. Unfortunately, the pit stop and driver change did not go well. Mark was struggling to get the belts in so we lost a lot of time with that. I started to make my way through the field getting up into tenth. The safety car came out and that helped bunch the field up, but we had a number of dramas. I thought I had a puncture and pitted to change a wheel with five minutes remaining. It was disappointing, and I could do no more than 15th by the time the flag came out.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner & Managing Director, United Autosports
“We went into this race having finished on the podium at Oulton Park with the Audi (No.25) which meant that we carried a penalty here at Rockingham. So to come away with a good points haul on that car is a very credible result. Zak (No. 23) had a tough day which is unfortunate after such a good qualifying position. He got a good start off the line but got caught up in the action and came off worst. Mark Blundell (No.24) did a great job but we made too many mistakes. The pit stop did not go according to plan so we have to rectify that. Jody was up against it and did the best job he could. All in all, the pace between the two of them was good but it means nothing when you make too many mistakes. From an operational point of view, I am really proud of every single member of the team, every one of them works incredibly hard.”