The 44-year-old Royston-based Londoner who won the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans but stepped away from active motorsport after finishing second in the French marathon seven years ago, makes a one-off return to the cockpit for the high-profile American-owned, British operated “customer” Audi team.
Blundell netted three “podiums” during a four year Formula One career and will compete in the annual twice-around-the-clock GT race around the legendary 4.35-mile Spa-Francorchamps track in the heart of the Ardennes.
“I’d thought about returning to the cockpit but wanted to do so at a race I had not done before but also in an environment where it would be fun and professional,” remarked Blundell. “I feel that United Autosports ticks those boxes after being given the opportunity by team co-owner Zak [Brown] which has re-ignited the fire in my belly again.
“I now have time to commit and focus on the occasional race after eight years involved in ‘live’ television as part of the ITV F1 presenting team and building up my motorsport and soccer management companies while the Spa 24 Hours makes perfect sense with my previous successes in 24 Hour racing.”
Blundell, who drove for Brabham, Ligier, Tyrrell and McLaren in F1 before competing in the American CART World Series for five years, raced at Spa for the first time in 1987, posting his best-ever result at the Belgian track with a second place in an FIA International Formula 3000 race. His last race at Spa was in 1995 and almost signed off from regular on-track motorsport action with a second Le Mans victory seven years ago.
Mark continued: “My last Spa race was at the wheel of an F1 McLaren . It’s one of my top-three track’s in the world because it offers a massive challenge to a race driver. My last race was in 2003 with Bentley at Le Mans where I finished second overall having led much of the race. I love long distance, round-the-clock racing.”
Yorkshire-based United Autosports, formed last winter and co-owned by American Zak Brown and Leeds-born Richard Dean, is concentrating on successfully defending the FIA GT3 European Championship title for Audi this year but will additionally enter two, Audi R8 LMS sports cars at Spa.
“It’s great to be part of a team of drivers as there is a huge amount of energy in the build-up and lots of emotion in sharing the trials and tribulations of a 24 hour race itself after months of preparation,” added Blundell who sampled the 525-hp Audi R8 LMS for the first time this week (Silverstone, May 4). “The highs and lows are extreme because it’s such a big team effort with everyone involved over such a long period but that is the attraction for me to dust off the helmet again.”
The Spa 24 Hours was first run in 1924 and has seen only seven British driver’s winning the race – the most recent 15 years ago. Blundell teams-up with Brown in the Remington sponsored Audi, which will include two other co-drivers, bidding for GT3 honors.
Zak Brown added: “It’s very exciting to have someone of Mark’s caliber and experience joining our young team. Mark has raced and won at the highest level in motorsports and I consider it to be a huge privilege to share a racecar with him.”
“Everyone who knows Mark well understands what he will bring to a team,” stated Richard Dean. “He is fast, the guys here love him and he has won the biggest 24 hour race there is. Everything we need for United Autosports’ first shot at the Spa 24 hours!
“We’re under no illusions that Spa is a very difficult race and we are excited to be part of it. Our preparations start with putting together the very best people for a very serious effort,” concluded Richard.
United Autosports competes in the third and fourth rounds of the FIA GT3 European Championship at Brno,Czech Republic (May 22-23). Despite only being formed in recent months, the team have already made its mark in the FIA GT3 paddock with its ultra-professional presentation and high-profile sponsors including Spectrum Brands – Remington, Just Marketing International (JMI), LG Electronics Inc., RaceDayStaff.com., Molecule Labs Inc., Cerruti plus West London Audi.