22 July, 2013
Four years ago, Anglo-American team United Autosports arrived at Spa-Francorchamps for its maiden 24 hour race. Now with almost 80 individual GT and sports car races to its name – including prestigious events like 24 hour races at Daytona (USA) and in Dubai (UAE), the Bathurst (AUS) and Abu Dhabi (UAE) 12 Hours plus Macau (CHN), Petit Le Mans (USA) and Zhuhai (CHN), it returns to contest the Total Spa 24 Hours with a singleton Audi R8 LMS ultra.
2013 is already shaping up to be United Autosports’ most successful season in its short but burgeoning existence. The Leeds (GB) based team and drivers lie second in the British GT3 Championship while Mark Patterson leads the Blancpain Gentleman Driver Trophy. Meanwhile UA drivers Jim and Glynn Geddie lead the European Supercar Challenge (GT).
For the 65th edition of the legendary Total 24 Hours Of Spa which sees a massive entry of over 70 GT3 cars, “gentleman” racers Mark Patterson (USA) and Alain Li (F) are joined by Glynn Geddie (GB) and Spa 24 Hour race débutant Will Bratt (GB), a former FIA Formula Two Championship race winner at the Belgian track, in the #125 Allied World/UBS Audi R8 LMS ultra.
South African-born Patterson was one of United Autosports’ initial signings in early 2010 and has been an ever-present member of the team over the past four seasons. Confirming the beliefs of team co-owners Zak Brown and Richard Dean, Mark has turned out to be an accomplished “gentleman” driver, whether it be “sprint” BGT races or endurance races at Spa, Bathurst and Abu Dhabi. Indeed Spa is Patterson’s 42nd race with United Autosports since April 2010.
Hong Kong-based businessman Alain Li makes his seventh United Autosports race appearance and, like Patterson, has been ever-present in its Spa 24 Hour driver squad over the past four years. On United Autosports’ Spa début in 2010, Patterson achieved third place with Li fourth, Alain also recording a class podium in the Zhuhai (CHN) Intercontinental Le Mans Cup race that year.
Joining Patterson and Li who have shared a United Autosports Audi previously at Spa (2010 & ’12) and Bathurst (2012 & ’13), are “professional” drivers Will Bratt and Glynn Geddie. Englishman Bratt contests only his second race for United Autosports, having made his team début in the Gulf 12 Hours (Abu Dhabi) last December along with Patterson, with Spa marking his maiden 24 hour race. Will, who currently races an Audi A4 in the British Touring Car Championship, progressed from T Cars, Formulae Renault, Three, 3000 and Two plus GP2 single-seaters accumulating 25 career wins and two championship titles enroute. He has previously raced three times at Spa – taking two pole-positions and a win.
Meanwhile Scotsman Glynn Geddie will be making his second Spa 24 Hour race appearance in his 12th UA race since his team début just four months ago that includes an impressive six top-three “podiums”. Geddie has chosen the “tin top” route in his career, competing in the Porsche Carrera Cup & Supercup, BritCar, British GT and FIA GT3 European Championships and Dutch Supercar Challenge. The British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star has netted 27 wins from his near 120-race career and three championship titles.
The #125 Audi R8 LMS ultra is the one being campaigned by Patterson and Matt Bell in this year’s British GT Championship. Changes made for the twice-around-the-clock Spa race include suspension components, running gear comprising of uprated drive shafts and CV joints, “24 hour race specification” front and rear bumpers, new lighting and tire pressure monitors plus a 100-liter fuel tank.
The current Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps motor-racing circuit is 4.35-miles in length. Designed in 1920 by Jules de Their and Henri Langlois Van Ophem, the original 9.31-mile triangle-shaped course used public roads between the towns of Spa, Malmedy, and Stavelot. The first car race was held there in 1922, and two years later saw the first running of the 24 Hours. The track was first used for Grand Prix racing in 1925.
Will Bratt (GB). Age: 25. Born: Oxford, UK. Lives: Banbury, England, UK.
Spa 24Hr: Début. Spa History: Début 2008. Spanish Formula Three Championship (2008) and FIA Formula Two Championship (2011). Other 24Hr races: None.
“Spa marks my maiden 24 hour race so it’ll be quite an experience especially racing for that kind of duration at Spa but I'm really looking forward to the challenge. I made my United Autosports race debut in the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi last December and it’s great to be back driving for them.
“The Audi R8 LMS is a lot of fun to drive and I’m certain we’ll be on the pace. I’ve previously raced single-seaters [Formulae Two & Three) at Spa and love the track. I was always fast there, had two pole-positions, and was on the podium in each race including a win in Formula Two.”
Glynn Geddie (GB). Age: 23. Born/Lives: Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.
Spa 24Hr: 2011 25th/11th. Spa History: Début 2009. Britcar (2009), Dutch Supercar Challenge (2010), British GT Championship (2011), Racing Festival Supercar Challenge (2012), Dutch Supercar Challenge (2013). Other 24Hr races: Daytona 24 Hours (2011 44th).
“It’s a shame I won’t have tested or raced the Audi before getting to Spa but I’m confident I will quickly get up to speed with it although obviously it will be a learning curve for me. I’m just so very happy to be involved with United Autosports again – I’m absolutely delighted to have secured this drive.
"I qualified on pole on my Spa début in 2009 but my car developed a mechanical issue which meant I non-started. I finished third and sixth in 2011 British GT before racing in Spa 24 Hours for the first time that year. In last year’s Racing Festival Supercar Challenge at Spa, I was second and third and repeated those results in the two Dutch Supercar Challenge races with United last month.”
Alain Li (F). Age: 53. Born: Caen, France. Lives: Hong Kong.
Spa 24Hr: 2010 10th/4th; 2011 19th/8th; 2012 48th/23rd (all United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Début 2004, Ferrari Challenge Series (2004-8). Other 24Hr races: None.
“This is my fourth Spa 24 Hours at United Autosports and with Mark in the team, and with our two new co-drivers, I’m hoping for a good Pro-Am class showing. The Audi R8 LMS is arguably the best car for this event in terms of overall performance while United Autosports has shown excellent form this year in the British GT with the Audi so the ingredients are all there for a strong run.
“Since last year’s Spa race, I’ve been competing in the Ferrari Challenge Asia and won the Singapore GP support race. This year I have had four podiums in six races and so hopefully I can carry that form with me in to Spa. I’ve also competed in the 12 Hours of Merdeka in Malaysia last year and Bathurst again with United. However Spa remains the highlight of my racing year. The track is in the best in the world and the 24 Hour event keeps getting better and bigger every year. For a ‘gentleman’ driver like me, the chance to compete on track with drivers who have won Le Mans and raced in Formula One is a dream come true. As long as Richard and Zak are happy for me to drive one of their cars, I will keep racing with United whenever I can.”
Mark Patterson (USA). Age: 61. Born: Port Elizabeth, S Africa. Lives: Bronxville, N.Y., USA.
Spa 24Hr: 2009 17th o/a (Ferrari 430 GT3); 2010 10th/4th; 2011 Retired from 38th position after 5½hrs, mechanical; 2012 48th/23rd (all United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Spa History: Début 2001. Lamborghini Super Trophy (2001). Other 24Hr races: Daytona (2004 38th/13th, 2005 23rd/14th, 2006/2nd, 2007/9th, 2008/6th, 2009/41st, 2010/7th, 2011/4th [United Autosports Riley-Ford]). Dubai (2012 18th A6/GT (United Autosports Audi R8 LMS). Le Mans 24 Hours (2013 6th LMP2).
“I’m sure our Audi R8 LMS over a 24 hour span will definitely be vying for a [PAM] podium. I’ve been at United Autosports since the team’s formation at the beginning of 2010, running with them in FIA GT3, Blancpain and British GT including endurance races at Spa, Daytona, Abu Dhabi and Bathurst and I remain very comfortable with them – they’re a great bunch of people. Spa is the best race track in the world – no other track combines such amazing corners like Eau Rouge, Pouhon, Stavelot and Blanchimont.”
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
“Spa has become a permanent fixture in United Autosports’ diary. This is our fourth consecutive year and the entire team loves the huge challenge the event always throws up. We have previously finished on the podium there and have a good finishing record in the race. I expect our Audi to be challenging for a Pro-Am podium with the excellent driver line-up we have gathered together for this year’s race.
“The event has attracted a mega entry this year, not just in terms of numbers but outstanding quality too. Not only are there some extremely fast drivers but ultra-professional teams that we face in our quest for a top result.”