EDDIE CHEEVER IN STAR-SPANGLED SPA 24HR RACE
Former Indy 500 race winner Eddie Cheever will contest the Spa 24 Hours endurance GT sports car race at the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS sportscar for United Autosports (Jul 31-Aug 1).
The 52 year-old American, who last raced two years ago, makes a one-off return behind the wheel for the American-owned, British-operated Audi GT3 team in the Belgian race. Cheever, who scored five Indy Racing League victories from 77 starts, and who also spent seven seasons in the CART World Series after an 11-year Formula One career, will co-drive the Audi R8 LMS with fellow former Grand Prix driver Mark Blundell (GB) plus United Autosports' co-owners, Zak Brown (USA) and Richard Dean (GB).
"Having spent a number of years racing sportscars, I am very interested to drive a modern GT3 machine. Being given the opportunity by my good friend Zak to drive the Audi at Spa doesn't get much better," remarked Cheever, who still holds the record Indy 500 fastest lap of 236.103mph (May 26, 1996).
"The Belgian track is one of my favorite circuits, arguably the best Grand Prix venue I ever raced on, and I still vividly remember qualifying in the wet with the Renault Turbo . I'm really excited about going back to race there for the first time since 1989."
Cheever, who drove for Theodore, Hesketh, Osella, Tyrrell, Ligier, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Haas Lola and Arrows in F1, scored a best third place finish at Spa in the 1983 Grand Prix.
Eddie added: "I always considered the 24 Hours of Le Mans to be the most dangerous race I did every year when the Mulsanne Straight had no chicanes. The only other 24-hour event I raced in has been Daytona, the last time being three years ago, which was actually my last race. But the lure of racing in a 24 hour race at Spa with Zak in an Audi was too much to turn down. I'm really looking forward to the experience."
The Spa 24 Hours was first run in 1924 and only one American has ever won the race - Italian-born Luigi Chinetti who emigrated to the United States and became an American citizen.
The Audi of Blundell/Brown/Cheever/Dean will be bidding for GT3 class honors. The fourth driver in the "sister" R8 LMS joining Stefan Johansson (Sw), Alain Li (F) and Mark Patterson will be announced in the coming weeks. United Autosports, from its base in Yorkshire, England, was only formed over the winter months and is contesting the entire FIA GT3 European Championship title with a brace of Audi R8 LMS sports cars this year.
Johansson and Cheever recently experienced the Audi R8 LMS at Snetterton (England) with Blundell also present to enjoy his second run in the Audi after an initial test on Silverstone's Stowe circuit (England) last month.