United Autosports has committed to the remainder of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup rounds in LMP2 with the possibility of running a LMP3 car later in the year as well according to team co-owner/managing director Richard Dean.
The defending FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series LMP2 championship-winning squad is making its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship return in this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with an Oreca 07 Gibson for Guy Smith, Wayne Boyd and Jim McGuire.
The car — a brand-new chassis — is set to remain in the U.S. at United’s new workshop in Riviera Beach, Fla. in preparation for the outings in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in June and Motul Petit Le Mans, which has now been moved to mid-November.
While having been absent from the IMSA paddock for nearly three years, Dean said it was always their plan to return, although postponed by nearly 12 months due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We enjoyed the three races that we did in 2018, Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen,” he told Sportscar365.
“In 2019 we expanded to two cars in ELMS with LMP2 and were working on our new facility in the UK as well, so we didn’t put anything together for 2019.
“We always intended to come back last year, and through February last year I was in the States looking at units and facilities where we were going to come and base.
“We came out here [to Sebring] as everybody else did when it was canceled, and from that point onwards we were about to commit to something a little bit more in 2020.
“But for obvious reasons all that was shelved, so we’re sort of picking back up where we were. We looked at the problems that we had operating in 2018 to try and address it for here.
“This year really is about getting ourselves a foothold, a little base, addressing those issues of trying to run as a European-based team over here.
“This race and Watkins Glen and Petit, we will do.
“And again, it’s about just ironing everything out and establishing ourselves for something here next year, a little bit more full-time.”
Dean said additional LMP2 outings this season is unlikely due to scheduling conflicts although he hasn’t ruled out bringing the team’s spare Ligier JS P320 Nissan over to join the LMP3 ranks of the WeatherTech Championship in the two remaining Endurance Cup rounds.
“At the moment we’ve got a spare car and we just need to decide whether that spare car is better positioned in the UK as a spare, or if it can come here and embark on a little program here,” he said.
“This [LMP2 program] is very much a program around Jim McGuire. With LMP2 having a Bronze in the car, it’s quite clear how we can approach that program.
“Jim’s made that commitment. He and I haven’t really talked beyond here about the rest of it (driver lineup), because we’ve been busy.”
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Dean said they’re utilizing this weekend to get acclimated to its newly acquired equipment ahead of a potential increased presence in LMP2 and/or LMP3 next year.
“We had this race trailer from 2018,” he said. “It’s been mothballed – our friends at Andretti have been very kind in letting us store it there, but it’s been in their way.
“We needed to get it recommissioned to stay in working condition. That’s what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks.
“The East Coast [workshop location] for us at the moment is very convenient for us, because we’ve got some people coming backwards and forwards.
“But we are appointing some local guys to be full-time at that base, so we’ve got somebody there all the time that can get through a basic workload.
“We’re just acquiring IMSA-specific kit and, hopefully, this weekend isn’t too much of a test-run.
“It is on the one hand, very much a sort of ‘what do we need?’
“Rather than flying the stuff back, everything is staying here — spares, pit equipment, race trailer — just to make our life easier for the remaining two races.
“I’d love to run a full program in WeatherTech, in P2 or P3. I’d love to do that [next year].
“But that’s just my wish list rather than a commitment at this point, because there’s a lot at play for that to happen. But that’s what we’d like to do.”