01 November, 2011
JMB Racing called up Britain's Rob Bell to support the team's title bid in the final round of the International GT Open in Barcelona last weekend. The team entered a second Ferrari 458 GT2 piloted by Bell and Marco Frezza alongside their regularly entry driven by Joel Camathias and Soheil Ayari. The team's plan produced the results they needed, with Ayari taking the Drivers' Championship title and JMB Racing securing the Teams Championship title.
Bell previously drove for the team in a round of the Le Mans Series in 2007 and has kept in touch with the team since this time. He headed over to Barcelona last week to reacquaint himself with the team and their Ferrari, quickly settling in. Bad weather for the opening practice day limited the running and provided little meaningful data, but strong lap times put Bell and team mate Frezza second on the time sheets.
Qualifying weather was dry, and although Bell qualified comfortably in the top ten, the wet running had hindered the chances of a stronger grid position. The race began with Frezza behind the wheel and was lying fourth on the opening lap. Bell took over the driving duties for the second half of the race, and despite the series' handicap system demanding a 15 second hold in the pit stop, the duo were able to bring the car home in fourth. With the championship rivals of JMB Racing taking fifth place, Ayari retook the championship lead, but the title was still open as the 2011 GT Open headed to its final race of the season.
The final race produced plenty of excitement with the title only being decided in the final two laps of the race. Bell started the race and was lying third after the opening lap, with a safety car period slowing the pace for a few laps. At the restart Bell takes second position, followed by the sister Ferrari driven by Camathias. The driver change costs Bell and Frezza with their enforced 20 seconds handicap in the pits, dropping the duo to fifth place. Frezza improved to fourth place, until the last lap when Emanuele Moncini, JMB's title challenger, tries to overtake Alessandro Garofano and the two go off track. Frezza nips through to claim the second spot on the podium, helping the team and Ayari take the titles.
Bell said of the weekend, "It was a great challenge to help JMB Racing take the GT Open titles and quite a responsibility as well. Not having any dry running in practice didn't help with the race preparations, but over the course of the weekend we were able to improve the car, and by the final race we had excellent balance and a very strong pace.
"The team did a great job and I'd like to thank JMB Racing for the opportunity to share a victorious weekend. I had never competed in the International GT Open Series, with much shorter races than I'm used to running in, so it was a new experience and a different challenge. I'm delighted that I could help the team to achieve their goals and my congratulations go to everyone at JMB Racing for their success, and to Soheil for his title victory."