15 January, 2012
- Ryan Dalziel brings home United Autosports #36 Audi R8 LMS in 19th in dusty Dubai
- Bell and Dalziel set top six fastest laps of the entire race in 80-car grid
- United Autosports campaigns the only two Audi R8 LMS cars in the race
Leeds-based United Autosports brought both its Audi R8 LMS GT3 cars – the only Audis on the packed grid - through for a hard-earned finish in Friday and Saturday's tough Dunlop 24 Hours Dubai, both crews producing some of the fastest laps of the entire race.
In an event which attracted a massive 80-car entry, the scene was set for a high-profile 24 hour race in the hot and dry conditions. It even featured a late sandstorm which made working conditions for everyone at the Dubai Autodrome extremely challenging.
There were several manufacturer teams amongst the entry, including Mercedes and BMW, and many of the leading teams such as Ferrari's AF Corse and Lamborghini's Reiter Engineering. Bernd Schneider, racing for the Mercedes DTM team, and entries from the Lotus/Renault F1 team owners LUX and LOPEZ Racing, as well as a Saudi prince competing, indicated the high calibre of the event.
Scotland's Ryan Dalziel led his Starworks Motorsport team mates to a hard-fought 19th place finish, and along with Venezuelan duo, Enzo Potolicchio and Alex Popow, all three pushed the Duncan Batteries, Taxand and Soloson-backed #36 Audi R8 LMS to its limit and ran comfortably inside the top 10. A gearbox change inevitably cost the #36 Audi over an hour and a half in the pits.
In the United Autosports sister car, Matt Bell (UK), Mark Patterson (USA), Frank Yu (HK) and Roger Wills (NZ) looked as if they were on course for an easy top 10 finish until their car too was struck by mechanical gremlins at different times during the round the clock race.
On Thursday, Potolicchio had set the fastest time for the team, the #36 Audi R8 LMS qualifying on the second row to start the seventh running of the Dunlop 24 Hours Dubai in a superb fourth grid position. Meanwhile Patterson snatched the fastest time in the sister #26 car to start seventh.
As the race entered the second half, young Matt Bell produced a series of stunning laps in the Gravity-sponsored Audi, and in the dark hours, the 22-year old was the quickest driver on the track at that time.
Frank Yu had contact with a backmarker in the dark early morning hours, which shot the bonnet up and necessitated another stop to change it and affect other minor repairs from the skirmish. However, later a wishbone failure generated from the earlier contact, required another pit stop and with two hours to the end, it was a question of getting both cars to the finish.
As the 24 hours drew to a close, Dalziel brought the #36 car across the line in 19th place while Wills finished the run for the #26 Audi in 29th.
The team now looks forward to next weekend's Gulf 12H Abu Dhabi race at the Yas Marina Circuit, where it will be intent on greater reliability and a top finish for the one car entered for the Starworks Motorsport drivers of Dalziel, Potolicchio and Popow.
#26 Audi R8 LMS
Matt Bell (GB), Age 22. Born: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. Lives: Barningham, nr Richmond UK:
"Obviously the first call is to finish and you always like to finish as high as you possibly can but we had a lot of problems during the race, and luck wasn't on our side in this one which was a great shame. The guys did a brilliant job to get the car out whenever we had a problem so we were just glad to finish and see the car home. Everybody did brilliantly; all the drivers and I've got to say well done to Roger, Frank and Mark. I enjoyed my 24 hours of Dubai and luckily for me most of my stints were trouble-free and when I went out I was able to keep my head down, put in some lap times and try and recuperate the time that we'd lost."
Mark Patterson (USA), Age 60. Born: Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Lives: Bronxville, NY, USA:
"When the car was running well everybody felt very, very good. This is a wonderful track, and if you like sand dunes in your living room this is the place to race! I reckon both cars had a good shot at top 10 finishes and if you look at our times in the last two or three hours, with any of our drivers, we were running in the top three for lap times. The cars were good when they went but the errors were more than frustrating. I think on the whole we only had one small contact for Frank but other than that we had clean cars from a contact point of view and very driveable cars."
Roger Wills (NZ), Age 43. Born: New Zealand. Lives: New Zealand:
"The first 23 hours were great fun but the last hour was very frustrating with this electrical gremlin which kept cutting the power in the car and we just couldn't run at race pace. So we ended up spending a lot of time in the pits for the last hour and just going out and taking the flag at a reduced pace. The rest of it was fantastic and great fun. The car was brilliant but probably with too many issues. At one point I think we got up to about ninth but after that the race kept going away from us and once that happens it's hard to keep making time back. It was still a great weekend and just a shame it didn't run a bit better and get us the result."
Frank Yu (Hong Kong), Age: 42. Born: Hong Kong. Lives: Hong Kong:
"Finishing the race is important but we had problems basically in all of our pit stops and that wasn't nice but we finished the race and we all had a great time and probably we'll come back again next year. I had a small accident around five o'clock in the morning. A lot of the drivers are very tired then so they lose concentration. I was going into the hairpin side by side with another car and it turned in on me and my hood went up and I drove it back to the pits to be repaired. The car was phenomenal, the setup was perfect, it was comfortable to drive and I think the Audi has the best lights at night."
Zak Brown, Co-Owner and CEO of United Autosports:
"The result was definitely not what we hoped for but the drivers did a great job when we weren't having issues. The cars were fast; the drivers were fast. You always feel bad for the drivers and team when everybody puts in so much effort to get a result but of course it's always better to have two cars that finish than not, so we did better than some others. However, certainly our expectations were to try and win. We had some electrical gremlins and they were issues that we hadn't seen before.
"It's a great event; a little disappointing for us but that's racing. We've got Abu Dhabi next week and then we're onto Bathurst so we've got to make sure we're on top of everything, and know how we solve these issues. We want to try and win the race in Abu Dhabi."