09 April, 2012
- Fuel pick-up issues in race one spoils United Autosports' big day
- Sensational run from back of the grid to take fifth in race two
- Audi R8 LMS backs up pole position with race dominating pace
United Autosports' driver pairing, Charles Bateman (Boston, Lincs) and Matt Bell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne), showed tremendous pace and a brilliant driver combination amidst a day of mixed fortunes in the opening two rounds of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Oulton Park on Easter Monday.
In very wet conditions and with Bateman starting from pole position, he completely controlled the race from the front, and by the time he'd handed the Audi over to Bell, Charles had eked out a 6 second gap. Between them, they built up a 6.6 second lead into the last lap and the first race win was theirs for the taking. Then suddenly with half a lap to the chequered flag, Bell was totally dominating at the front when he was cruelly robbed of the victory with a last lap fuel pick-up problem.
With total professionalism, the two young drivers put the disappointment of the first race firmly behind them and in the second hour-long race they both drove the wheels off the United Autosports Audi R8 LMS to take a magnificent fifth place and score 10 well-deserved points.
Bell had been penalised for an indiscretion during Saturday's qualifying session when he was deemed to have overtaken under the yellow flags at Knickerbrook and had to start race two from the back of the grid.
On used wet tyres and in diabolical conditions, the 22-year old didn't waste a second as he stormed through the field, picking off car after car to bring the Audi into 12th place on lap 10. By then he was fighting the car as it aquaplaned through standing water but he kept his head to safely hand the car over to Bateman on lap 14.
The Leeds-based crew quickly changed tyres and now with the benefit of new rubber, Bateman left the pits in 17th place. He then moved up a place with every tour of the International circuit, and with the clock ticking down and 16 minutes left to run, the 25-year old starting setting personal best laps tour after tour. With a tremendously gritty drive, the Pilgrim Food Services-sponsored driver was up to ninth place on lap 23.
With five minutes to run, Bateman was still moving through the field and up to eighth place, losing no time as he passed two more cars to sixth. He then radioed back to say that there was a vibration on the car on the last lap as the rear tyre was shredding, but undeterred Charles made the final move to finish in a sensational fifth place at flagfall.
The second race result went some way to making amends for the massive disappointment in the first event and showed the huge potential of these two young chargers who did a brilliant job in the sole Audi R8 in the 26-car field. Their excellent performance showed outstanding promise and bodes well for the longer race scheduled for the third round at the Nürburgring Circuit in Germany next month.
Charles Bateman (UK), Age 25. Born: Boston, Lincs UK. Lives: Boston, Lincs, UK:
"Race one was really good; the car felt great. I got a clean start, made a gap, then the safety car came out, which I sort of expected, and we still had a few minutes for the pit window to open. I made a good restart and handed the car over to Matt and he did a great job until unfortunately we had the issue with the fuel pick-up with less than half a lap to go. It's a shame but we showed we're consistent; probably not the ultimate pace but we're there or thereabouts.
"The second race was difficult starting from the back of the grid and Matt did well with lots of spray and lack of visibility, on old tyres and with a full fuel load. I got in and the car was good but the track was changing all the time with greasy conditions. I made some good clean passes and I think fifth is a great result for us from the back of the grid."
Matt Bell (UK), Age 22. Born: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. Lives: Barningham, UK:
"Obviously it was great to come back after the disappointment of the first race, having been so close to our first race win, half a lap away with a clear lead and to lose it to such a simple issue was very disappointing. But it was important to look ahead quickly after that.
"Starting from the back was always going to be a big ask and at the start it was like someone dropped a blanket over my windscreen; I couldn't see a thing with the spray. It was the wettest we'd had it all weekend and it made it very difficult coming through slower cars where you couldn't even see their brake lights at all. I struggled on the old tyres with standing water and aquaplaned a few times, which is interesting around Oulton Park with the barriers looming! The car got better towards the end of my stint and then Charles took over and did brilliantly to get us up to fifth at the end. I really think we'll be strong for the rest of the season."
Richard Dean (UK), Team Owner and Managing Director of United Autosports:
"I think there are a lot of positives to take from the weekend. We've got two guys who are still very young and not overly experienced, hence their driver grade in the silvers but they're punching well above their weight, both of them, and I'm exceptionally pleased with the professionalism of them both. The team's worked really hard; the first race, pole and leading every lap was hard to take losing out with half a lap to go but we'll investigate fully why we weren't picking up the last bit of fuel that we should have done.
"Matt played a huge part in recovering from Saturday's penalty which put him to the back of the grid. I wouldn't swap him and Charles for anybody on the grid. I don't think we got everything we deserved this weekend but we got points with fifth place round Oulton Park in big cars like these in atrocious conditions, so all credit to them. I'm very buoyant going into the rest of the season."