United Autosports managed to secure a top 10 finish in the second Michelin Le Mans Cup round of the season at Autodromo Nazionale Monza today. The Anglo-American team’s #23 crew of Richard Meins and Christian England were incredibly unlucky in the final stages of the race, with a minor issue that cost them a top five finish. However, further down the order, the #32 Ligier JS P3 of Najaf Husain and Colin Braun crossed the line 10th, securing a positive result in what was their first-time racing at Monza, and Braun’s United Autosports and European Le Mans Series debut.
The team’s three Ligier JS P3 sports prototypes started 14th (#23), 17th (#32) & 18th(#22), Meins headlined the early laps for the team in the #23, pushing hard to make up places. By the time the round of pit stops arrived at the end of the first hour, the Briton had climbed to 10th, giving England a good opportunity to move further up the order in the second half of the race.
England fought hard throughout the second hour, making three notably impressive moves: one up the inside at the first Lesmo to take seventh, and two more up the inside of cars ahead into Parabolica to take sixth and later, fifth. Unfortunately, though, while chasing down the fourth place car in the hotly-contested LMP3 class, England suffered a loss of power which forced him to coast into the pits for repairs. Once fixed, England set fast times in the final few laps of the race but crossed the line a disappointing 17th.
Behind, it turned into a better outing for ELMS debutant Colin Braun and teammate Najaf Husain, who finish 10th after a spirited fight through the field from Braun in the second half of the race. Early on, the car was handed a pair of drive-throughs, which set the team back. But Husain gained confidence and eventually pitted on Lap 32 in 13th place. When Braun took over, he completed a comeback drive to secure a top 10 finish, taking 12th place on Lap 50, before getting past the leading GT3 car to take 11thseven tours later, and slotting in 10th after the #23’s issue.
United’s #32 car meanwhile, hit trouble early, Jim McGuire getting hit from behind while trying to avoid a spinning car on the first lap. The damage sustained from the impact caused bodywork to rub on the rear-left tyre, resulting in it delaminating, forcing the American to pit the car for repairs early. The work on the car cost the team three laps, and left them 25th with the sole objective of running a steady race until the flag. Matt Bell took over for the second half, and eventually came home 22nd.
Next up for United Autosports’ Michelin Le Mans Cup teams are the pair of Road To Le Mans races, held as part of the build-up to the 86th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 14th and 16th.
Jim McGuire (US), driver car #22, United Autosports:
Born: New York, USA. Lives: San Francisco, USA. Age: 57
“The start of the race, I had contact at Turn 1, it was unnecessary as there’s no point in trying to make up loads of positions so early. So I got hit in the rear, and that pushed part of the bodywork and peeled the tyre away. I had the tyre then delaminate, I was really lucky that I didn’t hit the wall. We then changed drivers and just did what we could to get to the finish. But, I’m super excited for Le Mans now, we just hope everyone will be smart at the start. That’s all we need.”
Matt Bell (GB), driver car #22, United Autosports:
Born: Newcastle, UK. Lives: Stamford, UK. Age: 28
“Jim got really unlucky. Everyone made their way through and someone in front of him got spun around, and the guy behind him hit him in the back which caused the rubber to delaminate. He was so unlucky. The guys then did a great job to repair the car, Jim got out again, got his confidence back and handed it over to me. I jumped in and just circulated, we were three laps down so the goal was just to see how the car felt. It was really nice, nine out of 10. The pace to the other Ligiers was good, and it was a good stint.”
Richard Meins (GB), driver car #23, United Autosports:
Born: London, UK. Lives: Surrey, UK. Age: 63
“Obviously the position after qualifying wasn’t great. We got hit by the two red flags this morning, so we had a bit to make up. As soon as the tyres came in after the start I managed to find a consistent pace and pick up a few places. I was pretty happy coming in while running 10th. I thought we were on for a 4th, but we think something basically came up and hit the on off switch.”
Christian England (GB), driver #23, United Autosports:
Born: Barnsley, UK. Lives: Huddersfield, UK. Age: 36
“We’ve had a great car all week to be honest. Richard drove a really good stint; he was quick and competitive. Then I managed to get my way up to fifth in my stint, and was on for fourth. But the extinguisher went off in my face, the ignition cut off briefly, then we lost all power three laps later. Luckily it happened at Parabolica so I could coast into the pits. The guys then changed the rear and managed to get out and set fast times before the end.”
Naj Husain (US), driver car #32, United Autosports:
Born: New Jersey. Lives: Virginia. Age: 55
“It was tight at the beginning. It’s my first time at the track, it is for Colin too. We’re both learning this place and in my first stint I had to fight through traffic. I’m delighted with the finish, Colin did a great job to climb the order. It’s amazing to get my first top 10 finish.”
Colin Braun (US), driver car #32, United Autosports:
Born: Ovalo, Texas. Lives: Charlotte, North Carolina. Age: 29
“I was very happy. Naj did a nice job today despite the mechanical issue in Qualifying which set us back, before the two drive-throughs, which also didn’t help. But after that he passed some cars.
‘For me, we were just trying to learn as much as we could, there’s so much new for me, things like Full Course Yellows. It’s great to learn about all that without the pressure of being in a big battle. Overall it’s been great to get a lot of experience and get prepared for the next one.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“Despite two drive-throughs, we got a top 10 finish. The pace is there and I feel sorry for Richard Meins and Christian England, they were definitely fast enough for a podium here. It’s a mystery why that car lost power and started again. Disappointing, but there was lots of pace. It all started with Qualifying, we got caught out with the red flags, so all three cars were down the back of the grid, so immediately we were in the danger area.”
Source. United Autosports