09 February, 2015
Matt Bell made his debut at Mount Panorama in the Bathurst 12 Hour last weekend. Driving for Bentley Team M-Sport, the British racer took fourth place after 12 hours of hard racing at the iconic Australian circuit.
The No.10 Continental GT3 of Matt, Guy Smith and Steven Kane battled intense heat and numerous safety car periods throughout the 12-hour race before it was all decided at the final corner!
Matt jumped into the Bentley for the second stint of the race and continued the assault, carefully navigating his way through more safety car periods. Despite taking the lead during his run he ultimately had to pit a little early when a blocked water tube caused him to severely dehydrate.
"I had a great stint until right at the very end!” he explained. “The drinks tube in my helmet was blocked, which wasn't an issue until a long period behind the safety car when I started getting dehydrated. Going so much slower means the cockpit gets hotter, and I was forced to pit before it became too much of a problem.”
During Matt’s second stint he was fighting hard for a top three place but received a rather harsh penalty after contact with a lapped car. Penalty taken he had to fight his way back up the order and had taken second place before the end of his run.
“The team reacted brilliantly to my early stop during the first stint,” he continued. “They adjusted the strategy and I was able to get us back to second in my second stint.”
Matt’s third stint was to be the final one of the race. He joined the track in third position and as everyone completed their final pit stops he took the lead again before his racing skills were tested to the maximum with two more safety car periods.
“When Steven took the lead in the last two hours it was well deserved,” said Matt. “Then it was down to me to bring it home. In the end the safety car periods were our downfall. We struggled all race when our tyre pressures dropped so the first two laps after a safety car period were always our most vulnerable time. I was able to fight Vanthoor off after the penultimate safety car and once I got that gap and my tyre pressure came up I was sure we'd done enough.
“The last safety car meant the tyres went cold again and with only two racing laps left it was very difficult to defend. It was impossible to keep the Nissan behind but I made it to the last corner in second place before the Aston behind decided to try and drive through me rather than actually race me. I was hit into a spin, which allowed the Audi past, then the Aston hit me again to stop himself going off which gave him third. It was a very disappointing end to such a thrilling race and I'm astonished it went unpunished.”
Steven Kane paid tribute to Matt’s performance after the race saying: “Matt was phenomenal in the last hour to hold on for as long as he did.”
Matt himself was disappointed to miss out on the overall podium but happy to have put in a great performance during his first weekend with Bentley Team M-Sport.
“It was an honour to be asked to race for Bentley at Bathurst and it was a great experience,” he said. “I can't praise the M-Sport team enough for their efforts and sharing a car with Steven and Guy was a privilege; they're both top professionals and great team mates. We came to Bathurst to show what the Bentley Continental GT3 was capable of and I think we achieved that.”