11 January, 2016
Rob Bell’s 2016 season kicked off this weekend with a trip to Thailand for round three of the Asian Le Mans Series, held at Chang International Circuit in Buriram. After a strong start in practice and qualifying with pole for the race, technical issues hampered the team’s pace, with a fifth place finish. However, the team retains the lead in the championship.
Driving a Clearwater Racing McLaren 650S GT3 model alongside the other regular drivers, Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa, Rob hoped for further success after two class wins for the trio in the first two rounds. It was a strong start for the team, with the car running well in practice before Rob drove a superb qualifying lap to take class pole and sixth quickest lap overall, making it three poles from three events for the Lancashire-based driver.
Fortunes changed for the team in the race. Keita took the start for the three-hour race and was straight onto a strong pace, leading the class. An intermittent misfire on the car from lap seven hampered the team’s pace for most of the race and with the drivers unable to maximise the car’s performance potential they could only maintain the best pace possible and bring the car home to the chequered flag. With mature driving and strong stints, particularly from Rob who posted fastest GT Class lap, the Clearwater Racing 650S GT3 crossed the line in fifth place.
The trio of drivers retained the championship lead with a 20 points advantage over their nearest rival. With 26 points available for a win, the championship battle will go to the wire at the final round of the series in Sepang, Malaysia in two weeks time.
Rob said after the weekend, “It was a tough weekend for us. The GT Class is very competitive with a strong pro driver in each of the line-ups, so qualifying is always a hard fought session. We waited until the last lap and then went for it, which paid off with a very satisfying pole lap.
“It was a shame we weren’t able to maintain our true pace for more than one or two laps in a stint due to the misfire. With such a competitive field we just couldn’t keep ahead of our rivals. Aside from this the car ran really well with strong teamwork, so we were able to run to the end. The buffer we’d built up in the first two rounds has been eroded, so we’re going to be in for a tough fight in Sepang for the title, but it’ll be great to battle it out in the last round.”
Rob heads to Malaysia for the final round of the Asian Le Mans Series which takes place at Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur from 23rd – 24th January.