16 April, 2012
- Patterson, Brown and Blundell push United Autosports #23 McLaren MP4-12C GT3 through to solid finish in massive 57-car field
- #22 car running strongly before electrical issue stops it after 57 laps with Bell driving
- Team vows to return with more competitive and reliable cars
A packed grid of 57 cars lined up on the grid for the opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza on Sunday, the United Autosports Pro Am trio of Mark Patterson (USA), Zak Brown (USA) and Mark Blundell pushing hard to finish the three-hour event 15 places higher than they started.
It was a difficult weekend for the Leeds-based team with numerous technical issues on both cars leaving the Pro Cup #22 car of David Brabham (Australia), Matt Bell (England), and Álvaro Parente (Portugal) in 17th position on the grid and the sister United Autosports McLaren GT even further towards the back of the grid in 48th place.
Brabham and Patterson both took the first stints in such appalling conditions that the first 35 minutes was run under the safety car as there was so much standing water. When the green flag eventually fell, visibility was minimal and even double Le Mans winner Brabham used all of his extensive experience to keep the #22 McLaren on the tarmac and without hitting any other cars or indeed, being hit.
Patterson too, was doing a good job to keep the #23 car going in the right direction and both drivers moved quickly up the placings. After the first hour, Brabham came in to hand over to Bell with the #22 car up three places to 14th and as the 22-year old left the pits, he pushed hard for the next seven laps until it was suddenly smitten by an electrical issue which locked up the wheels and sent him into the gravel. Fortunately, he avoided hitting anything but it was a disappointing end to a promising race.
Meanwhile Brown relieved Patterson in the continuing deluge and the American put in an exceptionally strong performance to put in some good lap times in the #23 McLaren GT.
Former grand prix driver Mark Blundell finally took the wheel for the final stint, the former Le Mans winner exploring the limits of car and track as he reeled in the cars ahead of him whilst setting personal best lap times. Despite a difficult car to drive, Blundell kept intense pressure on the #70 BMW Z4 until he passed it with nine minutes to go, and at the chequered flag, the crew had made up 15 places from the start having endured a torrid weekend.
Matt Bell (UK), Age 22. Born: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. Lives: Barningham, UK:
"Well obviously my stint was pretty short and it appears an alternator or electronic failure ended our run. I had fun while I was out there, doing a lot of overtaking; I don't think all of them were for position but it was a pretty disappointing end to the weekend really. It was a problematic and then our race being finished off with another fundamental issue. Going into Lesmo 1 my ABS failed, all four wheels locked up and I had a bit of an excursion into the gravel that I couldn't avoid. When you hit the brakes with no ABS and no other warning, it can lead to a big accident but luckily it happened in a place where it wasn't an issue."
Richard Dean (GB), Team Owner and Managing Director of United Autosports:
"It was a difficult weekend and everyone's working incredibly hard for what seems like little or no reward. There's a lot of work to do and we need a lot more development, the potential's still there but we need to get the reliability right. I can't fault the team or drivers; we're prepared to work hard to get a better result.
"We've got more testing planned at Snetterton next month, when we expect to see some development parts come through. On a positive note, I now expect to see the balance of performance changed to give the McLarens more of a fighting chance."