• British youngster from Yorkshire steps up to challenge after American-owned “customer” Audi team is forced to make driver line-up change
• Three-day Dijon test program includes FIA’s “Balance of Power” trials
Matthew Bell has been drafted into United Autosports’ driver line-up for its maiden FIA GT3 European Championship campaign this season.
The 20-year-old Briton has been selected by United Autosports’ co-owners, Zak Brown and Richard Dean, to deputize for Pablo Pérez Companc in the newly-formed Audi “customer” team due to the Argentinean’s long-term injury.
Bell will now co-drive the Remington Audi R8 LMS with American Brown in the 12-race, six-venue FIA series taking the place of the convalescing Companc with the “sister” Molecule/Cerutti R8 LMS piloted by American duo Michael Guasch and Mark Patterson.
Matthew, from Barningham near Richmond in North Yorkshire, England, will be contesting his first “full” season in car racing. Having competed in karts for three years (2004-6) – including winning the 2005 British ICA Kart Championship – Bell then concentrated on making a career in rugby football (2007-8) until a back injury forced a return to motorsport. He raced a Ginetta sports car from July last year.
Bell, who is currently studying for a history degree at Northumbria University in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the English city where he was born, achieved two podiums in the Ginetta G20 UK Championship and a third place in the G20 European Championship at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) last season. Bell replaces Companc who had signed to co-drive with Brown in the FIA series and drove in the team’s maiden test in Portugal (March 8-9) but has been forced to withdraw from his 2010 commitment.
The US-owned United Autosports team has now returned to its base in England after completing a three-day test at Dijon (April 6-8) which included the FIA’s “Balance of Power” which allows officials to collect data so as to “equalize” all of the cars competing in this year’s FIA GT3 European Championship.
United Autosports achieved three top-five placings on its race début earlier this week (April 5) in the opening two rounds of the British GT Championship at Oulton Park (England).
Matthew Bell (GB). Lives: Barningham nr Richmond, North Yorkshire (GB):
“I’m thrilled to be a member of the United Autosports team contesting the FIA GT3 series this year. It’s set to be one of the best series in Europe, so to be competing in such a competitive championship is very exciting particularly as this will be my first full year of racing cars!
“Having only previously driven a Ginetta G20 [race] and G50 [test], the main thing that has struck me is the power of the Audi R8 LMS. I had a brief taste of racing in Europe when I contested the final Ginetta G20 race at Spa last year but I’ve never raced at any of the FIA series circuits before so it’s going to be a tough task to learn them all but that also applies to Mark, Michael and Zak to a certain extent.
“I had a brief run out in the Audi at Silverstone [March 24] but this has been a proper run here at Dijon this week and I can’t wait for the opening rounds at Silverstone in May.”
Richard Dean (GB), Managing Director & Co-Owner of United Autosports
“United Autosports formed a 'Junior Team' specifically to oversee Matthew Bell in the Ginetta G50 Cup for 2010. The intention was always for Matt to move up to GT3 with the Audi R8 LMS in 2011. The opportunity just so happens to have come early for him! Life is about opportunities and being ready to make the most of them. Over the 12 winter test days, Matt has demonstrated speed and maturity. The whole team has no doubt Matt is ready for this.”