07 April, 2012
- Great run for Bateman in first qualifying session to annex pole
- Bell runs in top six to show good pace in his competitive group
- High hopes of turning pole into victory on Easter Monday
Charles Bateman grabbed pole position in the first qualifying session for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Oulton Park this afternoon, the 25-year old from Boston, Lincs taking pole by a comfortable .859s in the United Autosports Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Meanwhile 22-year old Matt Bell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) was putting the Audi through its paces in the second highly competitive qualifying session, and put in a 1m36.803s lap to put him sixth behind Richard Westbrook, Jonathan Adam, Matt Griffin, Allan Simonsen and Tim Harvey.
However, despite his solid performance against far more experienced drivers, Bell was deemed to have overtaken a slow Ginetta in Knickerbrook under yellow flags and his time was disallowed, unfortunately putting him to the back of the grid for race two.
The drivers were faced with cold temperatures and light rain during the morning as they went out for first practice on wet weather tyres. By the time the cars took to the track for second practice, the track had dried but it was still cold as the pair acclimatised to the changing conditions and tried different set-ups on the Pilgrim Food Services-sponsored Audi.
United Autosports fielded the sole Audi R8 in the field of 26 cars and there appeared to be a discrepancy between the Balance of Performance figures from the faster Ferraris, Aston Martins and Porsches.
The leader board changed during the first qualifying session as pole change several times until Bateman's lap finally remained the fastest to give the duo pole for the first race on Easter Monday. Bell meanwhile, will have to work his way through from the back of the grid in race two on Monday, which is likely to prove very entertaining. All in all, it promises to be two very exciting races for the Leeds-based team.
Charles Bateman (UK), Age 25. Born: Boston, Lincs UK. Lives: Boston, Lincs, UK:
"Qualifying was good for us; we had good pace in the car and P1 is always nice. I think the first qualifying session in a car that we believe is probably not got quite the ultimate lap time the Porsches seem to have at the moment, is a good result for us. If it's going to be wet on Monday – which seems to be likely – we won't have the spray from anyone else in front of us which will be good. I think we had a decent gap back to second place and it's always nice to know that we've got a little bit in hand over the competition."
Matt Bell (UK), Age 22. Born: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. Lives: Barningham, UK:
"Pace-wise we're still quite a long way off the top guys, who seem to have taken a massive leap forward from last year, even though these cars are supposed to be balanced with the same speed every year. So I think there's a bit of work to do from the organisers on that front. I had a high 1.36s [lap] in my sights, which I'd got down to, and I think I could have eked out another tenth or two; so not far away from where I think I could have been, and I'm happy enough with that.
"Obviously it's great to have Charles on P1 in the other session. But then I made an error of judgement with slower cars around the yellow flag and made a split second decision to pass them which obviously was the wrong one, and the organisers have penalised me by putting me to the back of the grid for race two, so I was a bit annoyed with myself over that. First race is the important one, starting from P1, and then it's damage limitation in race two but it's only the second race of the season so nothing to panic about and we'll just focus on getting the best we can out of it."
Richard Dean (UK), Team Owner and Managing Director of United Autosports:
"I think race one on pole doesn't get any better than that and it's by quite a nice margin! Charles in his first run with us has certainly hit his targets and I couldn't be happier with that or the driver pairing when you look at lap times; just two tenths between them, which is nothing round Oulton Park and considering the lighter fuel load for Matt. That's a real positive, so it's very important that we should be quick enough to win and score the points.
"I wasn't too unhappy with P6 for Matt in the second qualifying either, but obviously Matt was judged to have passed under a yellow [flag]. He was probably 10 metres away from being in a green flag zone, so a little bit more patience would probably have avoided that, but he doesn't need to be told. So we've got two opposites; pole in one and last in the other, but the forecast is rain and anything can happen, and if it does, we need to be there to take advantage.
"In the meantime, I'd like to see more done with the speed differentials; this is the first time the Aston Martins have run and they're quite clearly extremely quick and they [organisers] need to get that under control. The one car they have got under control is the Audi, so at least they'll leave us alone!"