11 April, 2016
Matt Bell ready for new challenge in European Le Mans Series season-opener
The 2016 racing season gets underway for Matt Bell this week with the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Silverstone. The six-round championship is the top sportscar series in Europe and the route to the world’s greatest race, the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Bell is racing the No.3 United Autosports Ligier-Nissan, an LMP3 ‘prototype’ racer designed to prepare drivers for the LMP2 category, in which they can compete at Le Mans. After focusing on GT racing in recent years, LMP3 is a new challenge for Bell.
“It has surprised me how quickly I seem to have adapted to the P3 car,” he said. “This is my first experience of a car with downforce as I didn’t race in single-seaters like most of my contemporaries. The LMP3 car has less power than a GT car but the car itself is much lighter and has more downforce so instead of relying on powering out of a corner you have to use every bit of grip and downforce available to you to maximise your lap. It’s quite a different driving style but I’m getting to grips with it.”
Bell returns to the United Autosports team where he made his debut as a racing driver. The slick squad has already been out testing at Imola, Paul Ricard and at Silverstone in preparation for the new season.
“It’s good to be back at United as that's where it all started for me,” commented Bell. “There are so many new things to learn in LMP3 so it’s good to have a constant, which is the team. It’s makes adjusting to the car a lot easier.”
It’s not just the team that Bell is reunited with as his ex-team mate Mark Patterson joins Bell and also Wayne Boyd in the No.3 Ligier-Nissan.
“No one has retired from racing more times than Mark,” joked Bell. “Having retired for three seasons on the trot I’m delighted that he talked some sense into himself so we can race together again!”
All of the LMP3 teams testing together at the recent ‘Prologue’ test at Paul Ricard in France, which provided an indication of the level of competition but this won’t become crystal clear until this weekend at Silverstone.
“It’s really hard to judge as it is effectively a new championship with all the Ligiers coming in,” said Bell. “You don’t know the competition like you do in GT racing but I think it’s safe to say that we feel quietly optimistic. It’s not until qualifying at Silverstone though when we will know for sure who we need to beat.
“I’m thrilled to be competing in the European Le Mans Series. I want to win Le Mans one day. Doesn’t every driver? This is a great grid to be on for someone with Le Mans in their sights!”
The 4 Hours of Silverstone gets underway this Saturday at 14:30 with live coverage on Motors TV.
2016 EUROPEAN LE MANS SERIES
16 April – Silverstone, UK
15 May – Imola, Italy
17 July – Red Bull Ring, Austria
28 August – Paul Ricard, France
25 September – Spa, Belgium
23 October – Estoril, Portugal