04 May, 2015
The British GT action moved to Rockingham in Northamptonshire this weekend for the first two-hour race of the 2015 season. Despite always expecting Rockingham to be the toughest track of the year for the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3, Matt Bell and Derek Johnston raced to a fifth place finish on Sunday afternoon.
Bell and Johnston qualified in fourth place for Sunday’s race and it was Derek who took the start, which took place in tricky conditions as the track rapidly dried after a morning rain shower.
“Those sort of conditions are a driver’s worst nightmare,” said Bell. “As we left for the grid we made the call for slicks as the circuit had gone from fully wet to fully dry in around 40 minutes.
“Derek made a good start and held position,” he continued. “Then later he made a mega move to take third place away from Andrew Howard in the Beechdean Aston Martin. Liam Griffin managed to get by him in traffic but he then held fourth very comfortably for the remainder of his stint.”
Johnston brought the Aston Martin into the pit lane just before the one-hour mark to hand over to Bell.
“As soon as I left the pit lane I knew that we were struggling for grip a lot more than others,” Bell explained. “We had held fourth during the stops and I was able to hold position but couldn’t really make proper inroads on the car in front and had to focus on keeping Lewis Plato’s Mercedes behind me.”
The race was neutralised by a safety car period with just 20 minutes remaining and at the restart the Mercedes managed to slip through, demoting Matt to fifth.
“I made a little mistake and paid for it by losing a place,” said Bell. “I then came in for a lot of pressure from Joe Osborne in the BMW. The BMWs look like they are able to really look after their tyres at Rockingham so it was hard work but I managed to keep him behind me until the flag.
“We fully expected this to be our toughest race of the season,” he concluded. “The low grip nature of the Rockingham track just doesn’t suit the Aston Martin so we knew we would probably have to write this one off. We’re at Silverstone next though and that’s a track that will definitely suit us so we’ll be giving it everything we’ve got there to get onto the podium for the first time this year. Huge thanks to TF Sport for their great work over the weekend. The guys have been working hard and the fact that we had the best pit stop of the race reflects that.”
The Silverstone round of the British GT Championship takes place in four weeks’ time.