04 May, 2015
A slow puncture in a fast-paced race put paid to podium hopes for Rob Bell and his team-mates at the World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Spa race in Belgium this weekend.
Driving the No.97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE sportscar with Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke, the strong line-up and proven race-winning car were anticipating a strong result from the event, with the early sessions giving the drivers confidence for the race.
In Thursday practice each of the drivers had a chance to get behind the wheel and for Rob, it was a welcome return to Aston Martin Racing, with the Lancashire-based driver having driven with the team in 2013 for two rounds of WEC and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The McLaren GT factory driver joined the team for the Spa round, as preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans which Rob will be contesting with Aston Martin Racing’s No.97 car and the manufacturer’s regular pairing of Stefan and Darren.
Qualifying third in class on Friday, the trio of experienced drivers were set for the challenge of the six hours of racing and with dry weather the grid formed on Saturday morning, with Stefan taking the start in the No.97 car. The German took no time to make his mark, moving from third to first in the GTE Pro class by the end of the first lap. However Stefan’s lead was shortlived, with a slow puncture in the left rear forcing him to make an early unscheduled stop.
The team changed their race strategy to try and overcome the disadvantage of being out of sequence with the rest of the field. Despite the best efforts of all three drivers they were unable to claw back enough time to reach the podium, finishing fifth in class by the chequered flag.
Rob said of the weekend, “It wasn’t the result the team wanted for this car, although the one of our sister cars, the No.99 entry, won the class, so well done to them. It was a good opportunity for me to reacquaint myself with the car and the team, which will be invaluable for the Le Mans race next month.”
He added, “Stefan did a great job to put the car in the lead right at the start and at that point we were all very pumped up to keep it there for six hours, so it was disappointing to hear him come on the radio to say that he was losing tyre pressure. It was just one of those small issues that has a big impact. Aside from this it was a great weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Aston Martin Racing team. Roll on Le Mans”.
Team-mate Darren Turner said of Rob joining the team at Spa, “It was good to have Rob in the car this weekend as it gives us a fresh set of eyes on where we are with the car and also gives Rob the chance to get up to speed in the Aston. His experience in other cars – and in this car from previous years – is always valuable.”
The Le Mans Test Day takes place in four weeks’ time ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours, which takes place on 13-14 June.
Rob will be back on track next weekend, returning to his regular role of McLaren GT factory driver. He will be driving with fellow McLaren GT factory driver, Kevin Estre, in a McLaren 650S GT3 for the German Attempto Racing team.