02 September, 2013
McLaren factory driver, Rob Bell, and team mate Bruno Senna had a strong run in the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Brazil this weekend, but they were forced to retire from fourth place in their #99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE. After two hours of racing car damage resulting from an unavoidable collision with a spinning competitor ended their race prematurely.
The Six Hours of São Paulo was Bell's third outing for the Aston Martin Racing team and he was partnered with home racer, Senna for the event. Seventh fastest in class after the first practice session, the duo upped their pace for the second session, finishing second quickest, just four-tenths shy of the leading GTE Pro, the sister car of Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke. Senna and Bell were sixth fastest in final practice and repeated this performance in qualifying.
The race began at mid day with home hero, Senna, taking the wheel for the first stint and was quickly up to fifth in class and hounding Kamui Kobayashi in a Ferrari for fourth position. A lengthy safety car period at the end of the first hour was an opportunity for a pit stop for the #99 car and Senna was quickly refuelled for the next hour of racing.
After only 20 minutes of racing another safety car period slowed the field, but the cars were soon back racing, with Senna lying in fourth. As the second hour mark approached the Brazilian driver was unavoidably caught up in an incident when a Ferrari was spun round while being lapped, causing Senna and another driver to go off track to try and avoid the spinning car. Unfortunately Senna wasn’t able to avoid the inevitable contact and although able to get back on track, his race ended a few laps later when he was stranded on the kerbs with suspension failure, a result of the earlier incident. This unfortunate retirement for the #99 car left Bell without any time behind the wheel for this race.
He said afterwards, “It was such a shame that the race ended for us due to no fault of our own, it was just a case of wrong place, wrong time and that’s the harsh reality of racing sometimes. I’m disappointed that Bruno wasn’t able to go the distance in his home race, especially as we were close to a podium finish when the accident happened and there was certainly potential for us to get there.
“For me, I was happy with the sessions I drove and the pace I was able to achieve in qualifying, although we didn’t have quite enough speed to beat our sister cars, which is always a goal. My congratulations go to Stuart (Hall) and Jamie (Campbell-Walter) and Aston Martin Racing in the GTE Am class who took a well-deserved victory, as well as to Darren and Stefan for their podium which puts them in the lead of the championship. My thanks go to Aston Martin Racing for the opportunity to race with them. They are a great bunch of professionals and it is a privilege to work with them all.”
Bell returns to the Blancpain Endurance Series later this month, driving the McLaren MP4-12C of the Gulf Racing UK team at Nurburgring for the final round of the 2013 championship.