01 September, 2008
British driver Rob Bell had his second and final outing for the Risi Competizione GT2 team in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at Belle Isle Park street circuit in Detroit over the weekend. Bell, who was driving in place of the injured Patrick Friesacher, and alongside team mate Harrison Brix in the no.61 Ferrari 430, finished the race in fifth place.
Bell, who had never raced at the Belle Isle circuit before, arrived fresh from his double victory in the FIA GT Championship at Bucharest the previous weekend. With little time to rest, Bell took to the track for practice, however due to bad weather he only achieved a handful of laps after rain fell heavily during the first session. Bell was handed driving duties for the qualifying session and this took place in contrasting conditions to the practice sessions with a dry Detroit street track. A gear shift issue prevented Bell from being able to challenge higher up the grid, however the team were pleased with the fifth place grid slot he achieved after only limited running during the practice sessions.
Bell took the start for Saturday’s race, as once again the sun shone at Belle Isle Park. During the early part of the race Bell was chasing down a GT1 car ahead, due to the tight and twisty nature of the street circuit Bell was held up for the majority of his stint as he struggled to find a way past. The no.61 car of Bell and Brix also struggled with no radio communication for the first hour and 45 minutes due to a broken radio antenna lead, luckily they still managed to pit at the correct time. Bell handed over to team mate Brix for his stint of the race, however a pit lane speed limiter problem as he exited the pit lane, resulted in a drive through penalty. Not to be deterred, Bell turned quick lap times as he rejoined the track for his final stint of the race. He overtook the lead car to be back on the lead lap of the GT2 class, and crossed the line in fifth place at the chequered flag.
Bell commented after the race, “The car felt good during my stints and we were quick when we weren’t stuck behind traffic, so without the small technical issues we had we could have had an even better finish. Looking at the positives I can take away from the weekend, and my time in the ALMS as a whole, I’ve been able to come out here and learn new tracks and spend time with a top class team; the experience will be invaluable for me in the future. I really enjoyed my experience with the Risi Competizione team; I’d like to thank them for giving me the opportunity to drive for them.”
Bell now returns to Britain for the final round of the Le Mans Series (LMS) at the Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire on the 13/14 September. Bell will be back driving for the Virgo Motorsport team as they aim to wrap up the drivers and constructors championships in the GT2 category.
Looking ahead to the final race of the LMS season, Bell commented, “I’m looking forward to the challenge at Silverstone, we’ve had a strong season in the LMS and we only have one goal, which is to win the championship. The car is quick and our overall package is capable of winning, so we are ready and prepared for the fight. I know Silverstone well, it is my home track on the LMS calendar and what better place to possibly take home both titles. Fingers crossed everything goes well for us.”