Zak Brown (left) and Matt Bell celebrate United Autosports? maiden FIA GT3 European Championship podium finish
United Autosports came of age in the latest rounds of the FIA GT3 European Championship at the Autodrómo Internacional do Algarve circuit near Portimão (POR) this weekend (September 18-19).
The official Audi "customer" team finally claimed its first championship silverware when Zak Brown and Matt Bell swept their Audi R8 LMS to a magnificent third place - a mere 8.356secs behind the winner - in Sunday?s one-hour race after 33-laps around the technical 2.92-mile Portuguese track.
Team-mates Michael Guasch and Mark Patterson scored United Autosports? maiden championship point 24 hours earlier while underlining the British-based team?s competitiveness, Brown achieved a front row start position for Saturday?s opening one-hour race.
United Autosports contests the final two rounds of the FIA GT3 European Championship at Zolder (Belgium) over October 9-10.
Race 1 (Saturday)
Qualifying: 2nd #23 Brown, 1m 46.575s; 6th #22 Guasch, 1m 47.176s. Weather: Sunny, hot.
Race Result: 10th (#22) +48.074s P1; Retired - mechanical (#23). Weather: Sunny, hot.
The ninth round of the 12-race series witnessed the team?s best qualifying performance of the season with Brown impressively claiming a front row position - only being denied pole-position by 0.153secs in the final five minutes with Guasch getting bumped down three places to sixth in the closing moments.
But the one-hour race began disastrously when Brown was hit from behind at the first corner moments after the green light resulting in little bodywork damage to the Audi R8 LMS but effectively ruining the race for the #23 Audi. Brown resumed half a lap down at the back of the 23-car field and handed over to Bell in 21st with 33mins remaining only for Bell, now 20th, to roll to a standstill nine minutes later with a mechanical gremlin - a likely legacy of the opening lap impact.
Guasch made a flying start and pressed for fourth place in the opening laps, the American running very strongly in fifth place until he too was punted from behind off the track and into a spin on lap six, dropping to 13th position. Gausch pitted to Patterson placed third during the compulsory pit-stop phase on 30mins with Mark running strongly, setting the #22 Audi?s