29 March, 2012
- Young chargers confident for season opener at Cheshire circuit
- Silver status for young drivers in updated Audi R8 LMS GT3
- Successful pre-season test gives early indication of perfect pairing
Matt Bell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and Charles Bateman (Boston, Lincs) head to Oulton Park in Cheshire for the opening round of the 2012 Avon Tyres British GT Championship over the Easter weekend and both young drivers have their eye on lifting the crown.
Competing with Leeds-based United Autosports in the team's Pilgrim Food Service-sponsored Audi R8 LMS GT3, both Bell (22) and Bateman (25) are proven British GT race winners, both taking victories in the series last year. Bell annexed a superb victory at Snetterton in partnership with American Mike Guasch, while Bateman took victory in the second race at Oulton Park and also at Donington Park.
Bell led the series for much of the season amidst intense competition and is very confident as he enters his second full year in the series with his new team mate. The youngster is getting plenty of mileage under his belt in 2012 as he dovetails between the British and Blancpain Endurance Series in the United Autosports McLaren MP4-12C GT3.
Bateman, who started in the Caterham Academy in 2004 and spent the next three years competing in the various Caterham derivatives, changed to sportscars from 2007 to 2010, racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup and taking several podiums along the way. Last year, he won the two British GT races in a Ferrari, so this will be his first season in the successful race-winning United Autosports' Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Both Bell and Bateman will be available at Oulton Park on Saturday and Easter Monday at designated times at the United Autosports garage to meet and greet the fans, and for autograph-signing sessions.
Organiser, SRO Motorsports Group, has a seven-meeting calendar scheduled for 2012 featuring the UK's best circuits, Oulton Park, Rockingham, Snetterton and the Grand Prix circuits of Brands Hatch, Silverstone and Donington Park. Round two in May takes place on the Nürburgring German Grand Prix circuit. SRO is repeating the successful mix of one, two and three-hour races for the 2012 Avon Tyres British GT Championship.
United Autosports is co-owned by American, Zak Brown and Briton, Richard Dean, and enters its third season of GT racing as it aims for its first major sportscar title.
Charles Bateman (UK), Age 25. Born: Boston, Lincs UK. Lives: Boston, Lincs, UK:
"We tested at Oulton Park last Friday and it went well. I feel very settled with the team and I'm looking forward to working with all the guys at United Autosports over the coming season. I think Matt and I will work well together in getting the best out of the car. My first impressions of the Audi are extremely promising. Having had only a short amount of time behind the wheel I already have confidence in what I believe the car can do. I'm really looking forward to the Easter weekend at Oulton Park and seeing how the Audi performs over the race distance."
Matt Bell (UK), Age 22. Born: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. Lives: Barningham, UK:
"The test day last week at Oulton Park was very busy, and was more a day for Charles to acclimatise to the Audi, and me to re-acclimatise to it. I was impressed with the rapid progress Charles made as he got used to a new car, and it really filled me full of confidence for the year. We had some goals that we set out to achieve last week and I think we achieved them quite well, and Charles and I worked very well together.
"We have been given Silver status for the championship, which means we're going to be given a penalty of 4 seconds per hour added onto our time in the race, so if it's a 2-hour race, we'll be penalised an extra 8 seconds. However any safety car intervention could prove a disadvantage and negate any advantage we may have. Oulton Park is one of my favourite circuits full stop, and Charles won from last place on the grid last year in a Ferrari, so I'm really looking forward to the Easter weekend."
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
"Our British GT deal came together very late this year, which isn't ideal in trying to build an understanding and working relationship with the drivers. Fortunately though, Charles fitted in straight away on our initial test with him at Oulton Park, and he seemed to take very few laps to get an understanding of the Audi. We've worked with Matt now for a couple of seasons and the pair seem very similar in personality and what they require with regards set up.
"Everything seems to be lining up for a good year for us. We are organised and have experience as a team in every department, so it is up to us to help the drivers along and create a winning opportunity for them."
Oulton Park Timetable
Saturday 7 April
08.30 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Practice
09.55 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Race 1
10.40 Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge Qualifying
11.15 MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain Qualifying
11.50 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Practice
13.05 Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge Race 2
13.45 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Race 3
14.55 Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge Race 4
15.25 MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain Race 5
16.00 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Qualifying
16.20 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Qualifying
17.00 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Race 6
17.55 Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge Race 7
Monday 9 April
08.30 F3 Cup Championship Qualifying
09.10 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Warm Up
09.35 Volkswagen Racing Cup Qualifying
10.10 MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain Race 8
10.55 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Race 9
11.55 Lunch & Pit Walk
12.45 Super Car Parade
13.20 F3 Cup Championship Race 10
13.55 Volkswagen Racing Cup Race 11
14.30 MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain Race 12
15.03 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Race 13
16.28 F3 Cup Championship Race 14
17.03 Volkswagen Racing Cup Race 15