03 August, 2015
Matt Bell raced to a well-deserved third place podium finish in today’s two-hour British GT race at Brands Hatch. He finished five seconds behind the winner and had closed the gap to second place to just over a second when he took the chequered flag after an afternoon of thrilling racing on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit.
Bell’s 2015 British GT season turned a corner at Spa three weeks ago when he and his regular team-mate Derek Johnston fought their way to a points finish. This weekend they continued to push hard and were rewarded for their efforts.
The duo qualified the No.17 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in ninth place on aggregate, and then it was down to Johnston to take the start of the race on Sunday afternoon.
Johnston made a good getaway and held position during the rolling start. When he lost a place to a charging Jon Minshaw, Derek bided his time and let the race come back to him. At the changeover he had made it all the way up to sixth place.
“We did well in the pits as I joined the race in fourth place,” said Bell. “The safety car came out for a bit but then the race was on. I lost a bit of time negotiating a McLaren that was a lap down but once I got past I managed to make up time and caught (Rory) Butcher and (Alexander) Sims who were scrapping for second place.”
Eventually Sims lunged at Butcher’s Aston Martin at Graham Hill Bend and managed to get past in his BMW. Bell was right on his tail.
“It was very close but I just made it through,” said Bell, who took third place at that moment. “I had a bit of a go at Sims but couldn’t make it stick and after that he was able to stretch his legs a bit and start to pull away. As a pair we were catching the leader (Joe Osborne’s BMW) but I kept getting slowed by traffic.”
In clear air Bell’s pace in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 was blistering but such is the nature of a GT race at Brands Hatch you can often get caught up in GT4 cars battling towards the end of a race.
“Sims did a good job in the BMW today,” explained Bell. “I managed to close the gap to Joe in the other BMW to just over a second by the end but ran out of race before I could have a go.
“It felt so good to cross the line in third place; it was a real sense of relief,” he continued. “I’m thrilled to take a long overdue podium finish after what has been a tough season so far. We’ve had the pace at every race but we just needed a clear run. Derek did a great job today and he and the team deserve this result.”
Next up for Bell and Johnston is a British GT double-header at Snetterton in three weeks’ time where they will be looking to continue their upward momentum.