Danny Watts (England), Richard Meins (England) and Frank Yu (Hong Kong) will race a second United Autosports Audi R8 LMS GT3 sports car alongside already confirmed Alain Li (France) and Henri Richard (France) in the third and final round of the inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Zhuhai in China on Sunday November 7.
The trio will be making their début for the American-owned team while none of them have previously raced an Audi R8 LMS. Watts, who has been United Autosports’ on-event driver coach this season, does have experience of Zhuhai having represented Great Britain in A1GP practice in 2007. Meins tested a Ferrari at the Chinese venue last year while Yu has scored numerous podium placings at Zhuhai in the many GT3 races he has contested there.
Having completed its maiden FIA GT3 European Championship campaign in Belgium earlier this month (Oct 10), the team’s brace of Audi sports cars were air freighted out of London last Thursday (Oct 14) having been stripped and rebuilt to the same specification as raced in the Spa 24 Hours (Jul 31-Aug 1) in which the Audi “official” customer team scored third and fourth placings in the GT3 class.
Watts finished first in the LM P2 class (5th overall) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as claiming pole-position and the fastest lap, plus runner-up in the Le Mans Series LM P2 after six class poles, three class and an outright race win with Strakka Racing. Danny’s last race in a GT sports car was in last year’s Macau race when he finished third (Porsche 997 GT3).
Hong Kong-based Englishman Meins regularly races a variety of historic single-seaters and sports cars racing throughout Europe including a Ford GT40, Lola T70, March 762 and McLaren M23. Richard also contested the 2001 British Touring Car Championship.
Yu has raced Ferrari and Aston Martin GT3 machinery extensively throughout Asia and has experience in long distance events from the Dubai 24 Hours, with Richard Dean and Merdeka 12 Hours at Sepang.
Two weeks after the inaugural Zhuhai ILMC event, the team’s brace of R8 LMS sports cars will revert to the same specification as raced this season in the FIA GT3 European Championship for the GT Cup race around the temporary, ultra-demanding 3.81-mile “street” Macau circuit on Sunday November 21.
Watts, who competed in the 1999 Formula Palmer Audi single-seater series, first raced at Macau in 2002, when he won the Formula Asia single-seater race. After competing in the F3 Grand Prix for three years, he switched to sportscars and won the Carrera Cup Asia round in 2006, repeating the win in 2007 before a penalty dropped him to fifth. He has competed in the GT race on both occasions (2008 & ’09) since its inception and both times finished on the podium.
Meins will be racing in Macau for the 10th time having made his début there in 2000. Richard contested the Guia Touring Car race (2000-4), the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia (2005-7) and the GT race since 2008. His best result was sixth place in the Guia race in 2003 (Ford Focus) and won the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Class B Division in 2007. Last year, Meins qualified sixth and went on to finish 11th (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup).
The Macau GT race is now in its third year and has been a catalyst for the growth of GT racing in Asia. Watts and Meins will face drivers from the Asia GT3 series while this year’s entry includes Aston Martin, Ferrari, Ginetta, Lamborghini and Porsche sports cars.
For United Autosports Co-Owner Richard Dean it will be a case of re-visiting a venue he first attended 16 years ago when the Briton, contesting the Formula Three Grand Prix, broke a bone in his right hand following an accident.
Richard Meins (GB).
“I tested a Ferrari at Zhuhai a couple of years back in preparation for Macau. It’s tight with some short straights and heavy braking so it should get pretty busy with the LM P1 cars out there too. It’s shaping up to be a great event and it is attracting a lot of interest in Hong Kong so I expect a good crowd of people will be making the short trip over to attend.
“The GT Cup event marks my 10th Macau race on the island. Macau is without doubt my favorite race circuit but at the same time it’s also the one I have the most respect for. There is no room for error and to put together a good lap is one of the most satisfying experiences you can get from racing. Macau has everything from very fast straights, ‘blind’ 130mph plus corners and a very demanding narrow twisty back section where you never know what will be round the next corner!
“I race a lot of Historic GT cars and own two Ford GT40s – one of which is a prototype and one of the first 5 cars built. I raced a Porsche at last year’s Macau event and was happy with a sixth in qualifying and am eagerly looking forward to racing the Audi R8 LMS at Zhuhai then at Macau for United Autosports.”
Danny Watts (GB).
“I’ve been United Autosports’ driver coach this year for its maiden FIA GT3 European Championship campaign and have been thoroughly impressed with its professionalism so I’m delighted to actually be racing for them at Zhuhai and Macau. I’ve practiced an A1 GP single-seater at Zhuhai while this year marks my ninth Macau visit and is a race I look forward to the most every year along with Le Mans.
“My first Macau visit in 2002 was also my first ‘long haul’ flight – I had never heard of the Macau Grand Prix and didn’t know what to expect. I’d beaten Jamie Green and Lewis Hamilton to the Formula Renault UK Championship title so arrived with some confidence. Tim Huxley, who had organised the trip, and my engineer Barry Forth, warned me this would be the most difficult circuit I would ever race on and how right they were!
“I was competing in the Formula Asia 2000 race and had a 30mins practice session, a 30mins qualifying session before the 10 lap race. Despite being instructed by Barry to go gently and most importantly, learn the track in first practice, I crashed causing a lot of damage. With my ears still ringing after a major telling off, I dug deep the next day and took pole and went on to win the race.”
Frank Yu (HK).
“Having raced Ferrari and Aston Martin GT3 cars, I can’t wait to drive the Audi R8 LMS all over different circuits in Asia. I’ve raced at Zhuhai on countless occasions in GT3 cars with many podiums. I shared a car with Richard in the Dubai 24 Hours earlier this year so know that United Autosports will be a very professional and competitive team. To race in the prestigious inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup race at Zhuhai will be a tremendous privilege.”
Zak Brown (USA). Driver, Chairman, Co-Owner United Autosports:
“I still keep having to pinch myself in what we [United Autosports] have achieved in our first year. Having raced on some legendary tracks like Paul Ricard, Silverstone and Zolder in the FIA series plus Spa, to now be looking ahead to us racing in China and Macau is just awesome. We’ve already had Emil Assentato, Matt Bell, Mark Blundell, Eddie Cheever, Mike Guasch, Stefan Johansson, Alain Li, Mark Patterson, Richard [Dean] and myself flying the flag for United on-track and so to now be welcoming Danny, Frank, Henri and Richard, to the fold shows that we are a professional and competitive outfit that drivers want to be associated with.”
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports:
“It’s a great line-up for both races and I’m very excited about the prospect of us racing in China and at Macau. Danny is just plain fast, he’s world class and knows the Le Mans Series well and has raced in A1GP at Zhuhai. Richard and Frank both have track knowledge so we will have one of the few complete driver line-ups who know the track. Frank and I were team-mates in Malaysia for a 12 hour race in 2009. He manages to take his racing seriously while being a hugely popular character in the pits. Frank had a great top-six finish in the Merdeka 12 hours this year, is a massive motorsport enthusiast and will make an important contribution to the team’s success in China. Richard is very experienced at Macau. Asia is an important market for Audi and our sponsors while Macau itself needs little introduction with the GT Cup race steadily growing in importance.”