01 September, 2014
Matt Bell’s British GT weekend at Brands Hatch didn’t get off to the most auspicious start when his team-mate had an accident part way through the first practice session on Saturday. The unforgiving nature of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit meant that Matt’s race car was out of action until Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session.
Matt was joined by John McCullagh in the No.23 United Autosports Audi RC LMS ultra for yesterday’s two hour race at Brands Hatch. John has been racing in a Porsche club series this year so last weekend was one of many firsts for him: his first British GT race, his first GT3 race and his first time on the full Grand Prix Circuit at Brands Hatch.
An accident for McCullagh during the first practice session put the team on the back foot and they had to go into qualifying without completing vital set up work. The resulting low position on the grid meant that John would have his work cut out at the start of the race.
Despite this he made a cracking start, moving up from 21st to 16th after the first three corners! He settled in well but just over 10 minutes into the race he was hit from behind, which set off a chain of events, as explained by Matt.
“John ran wide over the ‘marbles’ or ‘pick up’ as we call it. All of this waste rubber then sticks to your tyres and when this happens to you for the first time you think you have a puncture and you head straight for the pits. We’ve all done it but unfortunately for John it happened yesterday and we ended up losing a fair bit of time.”
When John rejoined his pace was good and he completed his hour-long stint before handing the Audi to Matt in 19th place.
“We actually delayed our stop as much as possible as we were hoping for a safety car,” said Matt. “When things go wrong you have to take risks with your strategy but this one didn’t pan out so I had a lot of work to do.
“I joined the race right in the middle of a battle between some of the top runners,” he continued. We were two laps down but I managed to pass them all and get one of those laps back. This showed that we had the pace for a podium but we had lost too much by then.”
After fighting it out on track for an hour, Matt brought the Audi home in 17th place.
“The nature of Pro-Am racing dictates that this sort of thing happens,” reflected Matt. “We tried a new set up this weekend and had we had opportunity to fine tune it, it would’ve made a big difference. I focused on doing the best lap times I could and on doing a good stint. We always knew this weekend would be tough as British GT has the best professionals and the best amateurs in the country so it’s a tough battleground.
“I need to be philosophical after this year,” he concluded. “Actually I think I could teach philosophy after this year!”
The final race of the British GT Championship is at Donington Park in two weeks. Mark Patterson will return to United Autosports for this race, so he and Matt will be gunning for a top result for the last time this year.