01 July, 2013
A gruelling Spa 24 Hour race for Mclaren factory driver, Rob Bell, finished yesterday with a creditable seventh place finish, 14th overall and the highest placed McLaren MP4-12C of the field. Driving with Gulf Racing UK and partnering with Nico Verdonck and Adam Carroll, the Lancashire based driver and his team mates had their work cut out to go the distance at the revered Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
The practice sessions began well for the team, with Bell putting in fifth quickest time overall. Moving into pre-qualifying the pace hotted up and the team dropped to the mid-field, moving back up to 29th quickest in the second qualifying session. The lap times put the team 20th in class and 33rd overall of the 65 car field for a 16th row start to the Spa 24 Hours race, the fourth round of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
Bell took the start in the McLaren MP4-12C and quickly made up ground, avoiding the inevitable opening lap incidents, making up ten places in the first few laps, and by the end of his two-hour stint was lying in 20th place, although a misfire in the early laps had delayed progress in the early stages. At quarter distance, the team were in tenth position, dropping back to 12th place at the mid-way point. The second 12 hours was a battle to maintain position on the road, which was hindered for a second time after a rear hub failure in Bell’s second stint forced a very slow return to the pits. With the team working quickly to repair the damage and replace the wheel, the Gulf Racing McLaren was back out again. The team worked well to creep into the top ten with just four hours remaining. In the final hours the final push resulted in fourteenth place overall at the chequered flag.
With nearly half the field retiring from the race, the Gulf Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT car proved to have the staying power to go the distance and, despite a few prolonged pitstops, crossed the line seventh in class, with a superb team effort bringing home this strong top ten finish.
Bell said of the race, “We didn’t get close to a podium finish this time, but we can take the consolation of being the highest placed finisher of the McLarens and with ten represented in the race, it was no mean feat. In my first stint I enjoyed passing quite a few cars and avoiding a few incidents and hairy moments, which was pretty exciting.
Bell continues, “I handed over the car a bit further up the order than we started, which was good. My second stint held a few dramas too. Losing a wheel was a bit dramatic and it felt like I’d never get back to the pits with such a long lap at Spa. Thankfully I managed to get back and get sorted, then we were off again chasing the top ten finish. It was a real team effort and everyone put their all into making it to the finish, which is an achievement in itself as shown by 30 of the 65 cars not making it.”
Bell returns to the Blancpain Endurance Series for the final round in late September, with the fifth event of the Series taking place at Nurburgring in Germany