08 September, 2013
Matt Bell was on British GT duty this weekend, competing in two one-hour races at Circuit Park Zandvoort in the Netherlands in the United Autosports Audi R8 LMS ultra. It turned out to be a rather puzzling weekend for the Breitling Superocean Replica Geordie racer as he took fastest lap of the race on Saturday but then struggled for pace in Sunday’s race. He and his regular team-mate Mark Patterson finished the two races in seventh and 11th places respectively.
Mark started the first race, which took place on Saturday. He had qualified the Audi in 16th place after losing out to traffic during the only dry laps of qualifying so he was well out of position. He lost a place at the start but quickly regained it and went on to take a few more. He was running strongly in 12th when the safety car came out after a big crash for another competitor. The safety car came in just as the pit stop window opened and this is where the confusion began.
“Mark came in the second the pit window opened,” said Matt. “The stop went well and we jumped a couple of cars and headed off down the pit lane behind two other cars. Unfortunately when we got to the end of the pit lane the red light was on so we were held there for around eight seconds, although it felt a lot longer than that!
“The light was on by mistake and it is so frustrating as the three of us would have rejoined the race as the top three,” he continued. “The wrong light meant that I came out in 16th so had to really get my head down and get on with it to regain some of the lost positions. I had a great battle with Luke Hines and also Joe Osborne; good, clean racing that was a lot of fun. I got fastest lap on the way to catching the lead group and finished the race in seventh place, just 5.4 seconds behind the winner.”
After the frustration of race one, Matt and Mark were consoled by the fact that they had a fast race car so they would have a clear shot at the podium from seventh place on the grid for race two.
“We were feeling optimistic as the car was great in race one,” said Matt. “When race two began I knew by turn one on lap one that something had dramatically changed. I had zero grip and had to fight hard just to hold onto seventh place. The team executed another perfect pit stop which got us out in fifth but Mark then had all the same problems I had. When the tyres dropped off even more he couldn’t fight back and he finished 11th.
“To illustrate how big the problem was you have to remember that Mark was the fastest non-professional driver at Brands Hatch,” explained Matt. “We will have to investigate what happened as we didn’t make any changes to the set up after race one. Why would we when the car was perfect?”
The duo were later bumped up to 10th place when a car ahead of them was penalised but Zandvoort has been a disastrous weekend for Matt’s title charge.
“The most disappointing thing is that the officials cost us a podium in the first race,” said Matt. “Even if we win at Donington the title is out of our hands now. The officials have had a profound effect on the race result and ultimately the championship standings.”
The final race of the 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship takes place at Donington Park on 5th October.