United Autosports managing director Richard Dean says that receiving a second 24 Hours of Le Mans entry is what the team “hoped for” but he still has concerns about how it was overlooked from the original selection process.
The ACO announced on Tuesday that the top two teams in the reserve table – United Autosports and High Class Racing – would be promoted to the now-62 car main field for the race on June 15-16.
United already had one Ligier JS P217 Gibson confirmed as its reward for winning the 2018-19 Asian Le Mans Series but missed out on having a second chosen by the organizers.
“It’s good. We were disappointed, but now we’re happy,” Dean told Sportscar365.
“We weren’t on the first announcement on March 1, so here we are in April with a last chance get out of jail card, which we’re happy to be involved in the race with both cars.
“It’s created a lot of work but it’s worth it because it’s Le Mans. It’s what we hoped for, and now we’ve got it.”
However, Dean feels that United’s late inclusion with a second car does not make up for the fact that it only had one car included on the entry list first time around.
United’s disappointment stemmed from its status as one of the most active prototype teams in ACO-sanctioned competition with four cars competing in the most recent European and Asian campaigns.
It also remains involved in the Michelin Le Mans Cup and will join the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 ranks next season.
Dean described the initial 60-car entry list and this week’s updated 62-car cohort as “two separate things”.
“In my mind, on the original list, we didn’t get an entry,” he said.
“We won one but we didn’t get one through all our other efforts and activities. That’s how it looked then and that’s how it looks now.
“This is an unusual case. It still puts us outside of the original selection. If two cars had dropped out, or if they add two garages to add two cars on the list, then it’s the same thing.”
Dean said that the grid expansion announcement came as a surprise and that there was no push from United or other teams to make space for two additional entries.
He suggested that the late change of plan will create extra organizational challenges but the team is committed to running both cars with the aim of repeating its 2018 podium result.
“We can’t prepare in the same way we would have hoped and six weeks gives us a lot of work to do, but we’re certainly not saying that it’s too late or anything. We’re in, and we’re happy to be in,” he said.
“Le Mans is always difficult [preparation-wise]. You don’t get to hear early enough on a March 1 announcement.
“So what you have to do is prepare as if you’re going, so hotel reservations, contracts with drivers, sponsor negotiations etc. If you want the best staff, you can’t start trying to pick them up mid-season, so you make commitments.”
Ryan Cullen has been named in the No. 32 Ligier while Dean said that Alex Brundle already has an agreement to do Le Mans with United and is set to race in that car.
He added that no discussions have yet been had with the pair’s ELMS co-driver Will Owen about the final spot in the lineup.
It also hasn’t been decided if United’s No. 22 Ligier will be placed in a permanent garage next to its No. 32 sister car in the new temporary pit structure.