04 July, 2011
Leading British sportscar driver, Rob Bell, was disappointed not to make it to the chequered flag in the third round of the Le Mans Series held at Imola, Italy last weekend. Gearbox issues forced the JMW Motorsport team to retire their Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 car from the Six Hours of Imola race, after a promising start with Bell running in third place as the leading Ferrari, behind the pair of BMWs.
The weekend started off with practice sessions, but problems with the JMW Motorsport Ferrari sidelined Bell for much of the time, putting the team on the back foot at an early stage. Bell explains, "It's still a new car for this season and we haven't done much running, so every bit of track time is important. With the lack of running I wasn't able to find a good set up and the balance wasn't good.
"For qualifying we made a whole raft of changes, which isn't usual, but we felt we had no other option as we needed to try and improve the handling of the car. The strategy worked, I was much happier with the balance of the car and we were able to make some progress, finishing fifth fastest in class by the end of the session."
The qualifying session was hard-fought with the four Ferraris competing in the GT2 class evenly matched, with only 0.05 seconds between them, just behind the two BMWs which outpaced the Italian marque at this track.
Bell was behind the wheel of the JMW Ferrari for the start of the race and quickly moved up to fourth place. As his stint progressed he settled into a good pace, passing Jaime Melo for third place to run behind the two BMWs as the leading Ferrari before handing over the car to team mate James Walker.
As the race progressed the JMW Motorsport Ferrari began to develop gearbox problems, but the team continued on and with the durability of the Dunlop tyres, Bell was able to double stint the tyres for his second turn behind the wheel, saving the team a pitstop of around 20 seconds. However, the gearbox problems escalated and with the telemetry showing a rise in temperature of the gearbox, the team made the decision to retire, to prevent further damage.
Speaking of the race Bell reflected, "It was frustrating to have a gearbox issue preventing us from completing the race distance as we definitely had the pace to be the lead Ferrari and finish on the podium. But with a new car this is what happens; we learn from each outing and gain experience with the car, so I know we'll continue to make progress. For me, I had two strong runs in the car and was happy with my performance, and hopefully we can get the reliability sorted for the next race weekend in September."
The next round of the Le Mans Series takes place on home soil for Bell, with the six hours of Silverstone race taking place from 9th to 11th September.