Matt Bell Closes in on Championship Lead at Rockingham
Monday 6th May 2013
Matt Bell and his United Autosports team-mate Mark Patterson grabbed a last minute podium in today’s two-hour British GT race at Rockingham. This result takes the duo to within half a point of the championship lead.
It was Matt’s lap that qualified the Audi R8 LMS ultra in sixth position. The Geordie racer had expected to challenge for a higher grid spot but a brake-related issue left him struggling during the 30-minute timed session.
He explained: “I’m not sure we could have challenged the Porsches in qualifying but I think we could have taken fourth place. The brake issue was odd as the brakes are normally a strong point on the Audi but something was different this weekend.”
Mark started the race this afternoon and immediately moved up to fourth by going around the outside at turn one. Some teams had opted to put their professional drivers in first today and Mark later lost out to one of those, dropping to fifth. He was running strongly in fifth but then had a spin at turn two.
Matt said: “Mark was doing a brilliant job but then had a spin. It was just one of those things. We lost a few places there but he retook a couple before the pit stop and brought the car in for me in seventh place.”
A typically strong pit stop from the United Autosports team got Matt back out in 14th place, despite having to sit tight for an extra 15 seconds, the time penalty ‘reward’ for finishing in second place at the last round.
The task now was to climb back up the order, without destroying the tyres.
Matt said: “The car felt really good when I jumped in and I was able to push hard enough to be only half a tenth off the fastest lap time. Tyre degradation is a real problem at Rockingham and coupled with the warm weather I had to work hard to try to preserve the tyres. Halfway through my stint there was a safety car period and as my tyres were still good I was able to attack once the safety car pitted.
“I got onto the tail of sixth place then took a couple more for fourth and set off after Jonny Adam in the Aston Martin. It was at this point that the brake problem returned so I couldn’t push. I wasn’t having any luck with traffic at this point, especially when some of the backmarkers decided to defend!”
The Audi got back in touch with the Aston in the closing laps but by then it was too late to challenge for the position. As it turned out though, third place would go to the Audi.
Matt explains: “We finished in fourth but then got bumped up to third when the Aston had to take a 60-second time penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. We had our share of problems this weekend but perfect race weekends are one in a million. Once we get this brake issue sorted we will be fully on it. Thank you to Audi for helping us with that; we had an Audi engineer with us this weekend.
“All things considered we leave Rockingham with a good haul of points and we will go to Silverstone looking to improve again. We’ve had a second and a third place so now we want the win!”
The three-hour British GT race at Silverstone takes place in just three weeks time on 26 May.