04 June, 2013
Home soil produced the toughest challenge of the year so far for McLaren factory driver, Rob Bell, and the Gulf Racing team’s No. 69 McLaren MP4 12C GT race car. Driving with Irishman Adam Carroll and Nico Verdonck, Bell and his team mates took on the Silverstone circuit for the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series. Finishing tenth in the PRO class and eleventh overall after three hours of racing, kept the drivers in the hunt in the standings with another championship point, with the trio currently standing in sixth place.
The weekend started with practice sessions on the Silverstone Arena circuit, the 5.8 km track used for the Formula One championship round later this month. With 57 cars in the field in three categories and over 120 drivers (some teams opting for two pilots), the session was a busy time for teams to collect data and develop their car set ups for the race. Sunshine bathed the Northamptonshire circuit and with the track temperature high, the heat added to the challenge’s for Bell and his team mates. After two hours of running they were placed 14th in class, 21st overall.
The qualifying sessions followed and each driver had a chance to set a quick lap to determine the No.69’s grid position for the start of the race. After Carroll, Verdonck and Bell had each been out on track the fastest of the times put the McLaren MP4 12C in a disappointing 33rd place to line up on the 17th row.
Bell was behind the wheel for the first hour of the afternoon and with temperatures soaring, it was a very warm cockpit for an endurance race. The Lancashire-based driver had a good start passing a few cars on the opening lap, but all his hard work was quickly undone when he was rammed from behind by a Nissan which tipped him into a spin leaving him facing backwards and only able to watch the field of cars stream past until he was able to rejoin the track in last place. Bell demonstrated his fighting spirit with a masterclass in overtaking as he passed all but 10 cars of the 57 car field, a supreme effort by Bell to put the Gulf Racing No.69 McLaren MP4 12C GT car up into 11th place overall by the end of his stint. After handing over the car to his team mates Bell watched on as his team mates kept on the pace to bring it home in 11th place and 10th in class.
Bell said after a tough weekend of racing, “It wasn’t the best weekend for us, which really stemmed from qualifying, when we didn’t get the best out of the tyres and struggled with the balance of the car. Added to this was the early race incident when I was just an innocent victim of another driver’s inexperience which left me at the back of the field. I then just had to put my head down and get back up the front. We just didn’t have the pace we needed to take the fight to the Audis and Aston Martins, so we’ll be looking at every facet of the performance to try and improve for the next round. On a positive note, we had good reliability, a strong consistent race pace and the crew gave us some solid pitstops, but today that wasn’t quite enough. Now we need to focus on the next race and improving on our performance.”
Bell now turns his attentions to the Le Mans 24 Hours race. He joins Aston Martin Racing for the most popular race event in the world and is preparing for the test day in just over a week’s time.