06 May, 2014
Matt Bell and his United Autosports team-mate Mark Patterson looked set for a top result in Bank Holiday Monday’s British GT race at Rockingham. Until it all went wrong!
During Sunday’s practice sessions the No.23 Audi LMS ultra was never out of the top three so the signs were positive before the qualifying session took place that afternoon.
“After practice we felt like we had a little more time to get out of the car so we went into qualifying hopeful of a top result,” said Matt. “We ended up third overall, less than half a tenth off second place. I have to say ‘hats off’ to Alexander Sims for the pole lap that he pulled out!”
On Monday morning everything was looking good, not least because the two cars ahead of the Audi on the grid had time penalties to serve in the pit stop after getting the top results at the previous round.
“The start of the race went exactly to plan,” Matt explained. “We knew we would suffer a little in the first 15 minutes as our set-up was designed around managing our tyres. Consequently Mark got a mega start, getting right up to second, before dropping to seventh after a few laps.
“The pace then evened out as we expected,” he continued. “Mark took sixth place and was catching fifth when the two cars ahead of him hit each other, leaving Mark to take fourth.”
Mark was reeling in the third placed car, just as it all started to unravel.
The No.23 Audi was forced to pit with a puncture, which put Mark right back to 16th place. At that moment the safety car came out which looked like providing a lifeline to Mark and Matt as it would put the Audi back in the pack, ready for the restart.
Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way.
“The incident was cleared quickly but the safety car was brought in before the field had been bunched up,” said Matt. “Unfortunately for us we were back at turn six and stuck behind a GT4 car at that point. The rules dictate that even when the safety car has gone in you can’t overtake until you get to the start/finish line so this immediately took us and a few others out of contention.”
In sheer frustration, Mark then made a small mistake and collided with the GT4 car in front of him and received race-ending damage.
“We haven’t had quite the good start to the season that we wanted,” concluded Matt. “I’m encouraged that we have shown championship challenging pace but circumstances beyond our control have put us out of contention at two events now. I hope we can get everything back on track at Silverstone.”
Round four of the British GT Championship takes place at Silverstone on 1st June.