There was no shortage of onlookers surrounding United Autosports’ IMSA Prototypes at Daytona last weekend, but watching on with particular interest were Michael Andretti and members of his Andretti Autosport team.
The championship-winning driver/owner was at the Rolex 24 with team leaders JF Thormann, Rob Edwards, and technical director Eric Bretzman to check in on Zak Brown’s effort as part of a collaboration between the two teams.
Starting with the union of Andretti Autosport, Brown, and McLaren Racing to field Fernando Alonso in last May’s Indy 500, the Andretti-Brown relationship has grown to include a partnership in the Australian Supercars series with Walkinshaw Racing.
To assist the U.K.-based United Autosports team on its Rolex 24 at Daytona debut, Andretti sent staff and assets to Daytona, and with the announcement of UA’s upcoming runs in IMSA’s North American Endurance Cup with one Ligier JS P217-Gibson, the Andretti squad will continue to stand behind the effort.
“Obviously we have a great relationship with Zak, and we did help him out at Daytona with trucks and three or four people down there,” Andretti COO Rob Edwards told RACER. “We’re looking at ways we can continue helping them with people and equipment, and it’s really just that.”
With teams in IndyCar, Indy Lights, Global RallyCross, and now Supercars, Edwards says Andretti Autosport will lean on its network to help ease the burden on UA’s staff, which also competes full-time in European sports car championships.
“Do we have some resources across the various series where folks aren’t being utilized when Zak’s cars are on track here? That’s what we’ll try to do,” he said. “Some of the people that helped last weekend… one person came to us in IndyCar as a truck driver, then switched to GRC, and was doing tires for Zak’s P2 team at Daytona. People could be turning wrenches on GRC cars one day and on prototypes the next, and that’s beneficial to them and us as they learn more. We’re trying to expand the cooperation, and the cultures between the teams certainly mesh.”
Edwards cautioned against any speculation that the relationship could develop into Andretti Autosport heading to IMSA with UA. That being said, the team continues to search for manufacturers that could make it possible for Andretti to make a return to top-tier sports car racing.
“If the right deal’s there, that’s where we want to be,” he said. “My first races in the States were at Daytona, and the paddock’s healthy. Just being there on the Friday, the health of that series is very good and we’re always keen to talk with manufacturers that would want to partner on something new.”