08 February, 2016
McLaren GT factory driver, Rob Bell, returns from Australia with a top ten finish in his first Bathurst 12 Hours appearance. Driving with TeKno Autosports in one of the team’s McLaren 650S GT3 racers, Rob and his team mates, Will Davison, and Andrew Watson endured a tough 12 hours of racing to finish in ninth place, having run as high as third before an accident damaged the car and forced a lengthy pitstop for repairs.
The Tekno Autosports #60 650S GT3 was running well in the lead up to the race, with each of the drivers taking to the wheel in the practice sessions. Will, the team’s regular driver, was on track for the qualifying session and in a closely fought battle, he had recorded sixth fastest lap in class and a third row grid slot for the start by the end of the session.
Rob made the earliest racing start of his career when he was selected to start the race with 05.45 local time usually Rob’s breakfast slot rather than a green flag time. The Lancashire-based driver was unperturbed by the early start, prior to sunrise, and was quickly moving up through the field, putting in a series of blistering laps as dawn broke and he was soon up to third place overall.
Still in the first hour of racing with Rob running at a strong pace, his efforts were cruelly ruined when an ambitious overtaking manoeuvre by a chasing Bentley ended with the McLaren being hit, breaking the rear suspension. Rob limped back to the pits and the crew quickly set to work to repair the car, but valuable track time was lost. The car eventually returned to the track but was lying five laps down on the leader. Rob was quick to put the incident behind him and worked hard to push to the limit and improve on the track position.
For the remainder of the race the car ran well without any further dramas. With strong driving from his team mates and Rob’s efforts by the time of the chequered flag the car crossed the line in ninth place. The team’s sister car, the #59 McLaren 650S GT3, took victory for Tekno Autosports, an impressive win on the team’s first attempt.
Rob said after the race, “I’m still feeling annoyed about the incident. We were blameless and end up losing loads of time in the pits, while the Bentley gets off lightly with a puncture. I think he got it all wrong trying to win the race in the first hour and it happened just a lap after a safety car period, when most of us were still getting our tyres up to racing temperature. He came from miles back and hit me on the rear after I’d already turned into the corner, so effectively used me as a brake. If I hadn’t been there he’d probably have ended up in the gravel, which is no consolation to me though. We weren’t the only car to have been subject to this treatment as he hit someone else later in the race and put them five laps down as well.
“I do feel that they should have received a penalty for causing the accident, as he ruined our race. Aside from this, and knowing we were out of contention for a podium, I had a great time ‘down under’. Everyone was very welcoming, the team had a great camaraderie and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the trip. And if we couldn’t be celebrating, it was great that the #59 car took the win, a fantastic effort from Tekno Autosports. “
Rob returns to the UK and, having recently been announced that he will continue as a McLaren GT factory driver, is looking forward to another season with this iconic British car manufacturer.