06 October, 2008
British driver Rob Bell was back in FIA GT action this weekend in south- west France at the Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro. Driving the No.56 Ferrari for the CR Scuderia team, Bell and team mate Andrew Kirkaldy, finished the race in eighth place, securing the final points paying position. Only three laps previous to this they were running in a podium position until Bell was hit and spun out of the race, dropping the car back to eighth place.
Bell returned to the FIA GT championship after missing the previous round in Brno due to his commitments in the Le Mans Series at Silverstone. Three weeks earlier, Bell was crowned champion of the LMS GT2 category. As he returned to the cockpit of the no.56 CR Scuderia car in Nogaro, Bell topped the time sheets in the first free practice, filling the team with optimism ahead of the weekend. As qualifying approached they were struggling with the car set up, and team mate Kirkaldy qualified in fifth place for Sunday’s race.
Race day saw warm and dry conditions for the start of the two hour race. Bell made a strong start, moving up to fourth place, he then set his sights on chasing down the third place car of Montanari in the AF Corse Ferrari. However close on track battling saw the pair clash, pushing Bell down the order to sixth place, costing them valuable time. A strong stint from Kirkaldy gave the No.56 car back a place, and as Bell rejoined for the final stint they were running in fifth position.
Bell caught up to the tail end of the leading pack as the race drew to a close, and was one of the fastest men on track at the time. Unfortunately close wheel to wheel racing saw Bell get hit by Montanari in the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari, and spun out of the race. The stewards later decided this was an avoidable accident and Montanari was given a 30-second penalty, little consolation for Bell and the CR Scuderia team.
Bell commented about the race, “We had an up and down weekend really, we never got the car set up right for the long runs, but after qualifying fifth we were optimistic for the race, and were focusing on getting points. I had a good start, the car felt good and I had two quick stints, if it hadn’t been for the incidents I’m sure we would’ve been on the podium right behind our sister CR Scuderia car.
“We have to look at the positives though and we had the fastest lap of the race and we were running in the train of cars right behind the leader at the end, so we had the pace. On the whole the racing was close and exciting, going wheel to wheel is what motor racing is all about, I just wish we could’ve had a better end to the race.
“We are now mainly focusing on the FIA GT team championship, we are seven points behind, but we are aiming to finish second. The top two in the team’s championship win a Le Mans 24 hour entry next year, so that is our goal for the next two races at Zolder and San Luis now.”
Bell and the CR Scuderia team now turn their attention to the next race on the calendar, the penultimate round at Zolder in just under two weeks time.