01 July, 2013
Matt Bell’s ninth place in the Pro-Am class of yesterday’s Blancpain Endurance Series race bagged some valuable championship points but didn’t reflect the incredible pace shown by the Geordie racing driver in the opening stages of the three-hour race.
Competing in the JRM Racing Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3, Matt had a torrid time in qualifying as, with over 60 cars on the grid, getting a traffic-free run is practically impossible.
“The situation with the traffic can turn qualifying into a lottery,” said Matt. “I ended up 20th in my session but I know we could have challenged for the top five if I had got a clear run.”
The team opted for Matt to do the opening stint of the race so he could fight through the pack from 20th on the grid.
The Super Trofeo race earlier in the day had a disastrous and ultimately tragic start so a common sense decision from race control called for the Blancpain Endurance Series race to start behind the safety car.
“That was a very good decision,” said Matt. “With so many cars on the grid and the nature of the first sector at Ricard it was right for us to start single file behind the safety car.
“Once we were racing though I got stuck in early, going around the outside of an Audi at turn one,” he continued. “I knew I had the pace to challenge at least 10 of the cars in front of me but it was hard work as most of the top ‘pros’ had started the race. I got past about eight cars and then it started to get harder when tyre wear became a factor. I got held up for about four laps by a McLaren then 10 laps by a Ferrari but once I got past them I soon caught the McLaren that was leading the Pro-Am class.”
Matt fought his way up to ninth place overall (second in class) before the first round of pit stops began.
Humaid Al Masaood was up next and while battling with understeer he had contact with another car, earning a drive through penalty along the way. For the final hour, Charles Bateman jumped into the Nissan GT-R. Despite the earlier contact not helping the balance of the car, Charles managed to get back into the points and crossed the line as the ninth Pro-Am finisher.
“It’s good that we managed to score points, despite losing around 30 seconds due to the penalty,” said Matt. “I was very pleased to see the Pro car (No.23 JRM Racing Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3) take a podium finish as it shows the speed and reliability of the GT-R, which is good to see as the next race is the biggest one of the year: the Spa 24 Hours. Hopefully I’ll be able to get into the Superpole session at Spa, which means I can go for it without worrying about traffic and show the full potential of what I can do with this car.”