United Autosports managing director Richard Dean says he’s “hugely proud” of his team’s work and achievements as it nears the end of a triple championship season.
United still has one FIA World Endurance Championship race left this weekend but it has already sealed the LMP2 crown and the European Le Mans Series LMP2 and LMP3 titles.
Its standout set of campaigns made it the first team to win both the WEC and ELMS LMP2 categories in the same year.
Reflecting on the past season, which included a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Dean said all three titles were “well worth winning” based on the standard of the competition.
“Because we’ve had no crowds [at races] and we’ve hardly been able to have any guests, partners and suppliers that you’d normally be able to bring along, the perception has maybe been that it’s been a weaker series and one that’s been easier to win, but that’s definitely not been the case,” he told Sportscar365.
“It’s amazing how we hardly lost any cars to any of the grids. When you look at the drivers of the teams involved, it’s been very tough and well worth winning.
“I’m hugely proud of the achievements to get to this point, and even more so that we’ve managed to deliver a season that’s had so many wins, pole positions and enough points to secure championships.”
Dean suggested that United’s LMP2 title triumphs with its Oreca 07 Gibsons are “even more satisfying” considering most teams in both WEC and ELMS use the same car, but he reckons the organization’s background work has also been integral to its success.
The team, which entered prototype racing in 2016, switched from Ligier to ORECA LMP2 machinery last year to coincide with the start of its maiden WEC campaign.
United also strengthened its management structure at the start of the 2019-20 WEC with the appointment of ex-Ferrari F1 engineer Dave Greenwood as its technical director, but it has also benefited from retaining team members over the years to build stability.
“It’s hard to argue that [switching to ORECA] didn’t give us the consistency in the car from event to event, circuit to circuit, in all the various conditions we’re faced with,” said Dean.
“But we won two races with the Ligier in ELMS, a third of the races in a season.
“We were a very different team then. It was our debut year in LMP2 when we ran the car in 2017 and we are a better team now.
“We’ve got the same package as pretty much everybody else now, and that makes it even more satisfying. If you come out on top in the competition, there’s satisfaction in doing it.
“We’re massively proud of such a dedicated, hard-working group of people. It’s a talented group of people, the vast majority of which have been with us since day one.
“We keep improving and we keep striving to improve.”
United Hoping to Keep Double Champions On Board
Dean added that he is hoping to retain drivers Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque who earned both the ELMS and WEC LMP2 drivers’ titles and won Le Mans with Paul di Resta.
Hanson, who has been the mandatory FIA Silver-rated driver in both full-season lineups, has been upgraded to Gold status for next year.
Albuquerque, meanwhile, is understood to be set for a move to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on a full-time basis with Acura DPi squad Wayne Taylor Racing.
United is expected to return to the ELMS with two cars next year and is also looking to add a second Oreca entry for its WEC title defense.
“If I had it my own way, we’d just keep repeating what we’ve done this last year, over and over again,” said Dean, who co-owns the team with McLaren CEO Zak Brown.
“I could never get tired of it, and Phil’s been central to it. He’s progressed, developed and matured. He’s been the European champion, world champion and a Le Mans winner.
“He’s getting stronger and there’s still more to come from him. It’s all quite exciting, so why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?
“He’s not a driver that’s come with the obvious decade of motorsport [background] so he’s had a lot of catching up to do. The exciting thing is not so much what he’s done, but what there’s still to come from him. I very much want to be a part of that.
“We haven’t had time to sit down and really discuss what his next steps are. We’re going to find the time to do that soon.”
Regarding Albuquerque, who has been with the team since 2017, Dean said the current provisional schedules for next year could make it possible for the Portuguese ace to stay.
Albuquerque contributed to four of United’s five ELMS pole positions from five races this year, while his streak of consecutive qualifying bests extended to six events counting two poles earned at the end of the 2019 season.
“If it’s a secure and long-term deal or a manufacturer, I couldn’t be happier for him,” said Dean of Albuquerque’s expected full-time IMSA move.
“It’s deserved. Every professional driver in sports cars wants that sort of opportunity. If they’re about, it’s quite right that Filipe gets those opportunities.
“But IMSA and WEC don’t conflict, from what I’ve seen. If we don’t have calendar changes like we had this year, clearly there’s an opportunity to stay with him.
“He’s been such an important part of our growth as a team, across many aspects of how we’ve developed.
“It’s such a cliche, but he has become part of the family and the achievements we’ve had. It’s been the work of a combined effort. We’re working on it.”