11 July, 2015
Matt Bell and his TF Sport team-mate Derek Johnston got their 2015 British GT campaign back on track this weekend at one of the world’s greatest racing circuits.
It is rare for the daunting Spa-Francorchamps track in Belgium to not feature on a racing driver’s list of Top 3 circuits and the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 is right at home there as the powerful V12 engine comes into its own when blasting around Spa.
British GT grid positions are decided on aggregate and the combination of Bell and Johnston’s times put them in ninth place for the start of Saturday’s two-hour race.
Despite being well-known for torrential rain showers that arrive with little warning, the weather was glorious for the British GT teams and it was Johnston who started the race in the No.17 Aston Martin on Saturday lunchtime.
“The most important thing at the start was to make sure we made it around the first lap,” said Bell, reflecting on the drama that the British GT season has provided so far for the No.17 Aston Martin. “Derek kept it clean and did a lovely job during his stint and his skill was certainly tested just before the halfway point of the race.”
The Safety Car had just pitted after neutralising the field while a broken down car was recovered. The Safety Car driver didn’t get much of a break though as immediately two cars crashed, right ahead of Johnston and three other cars.
“The cars that crashed dumped a load of fluid on the circuit and the four cars following them all slid on it,” explained Bell. “Derek lost some places but he did really well to avoid any damage to the car.”
That second Safety Car period gave all of the teams the opportunity to make their pit stops under caution. Bell had a nail-biting wait for the TF Sport fuel rig to become free (the lead TF Sport car gets first fuel when a situation arises when both cars need to pit at the same time and the No.27 car was ahead at that point) but managed to rejoin in 15th place, even after Johnston’s ‘off’ had dropped the Vantage to 19th.
“The car immediately felt great,” said Bell. “When I joined the race I had three or four laps of heavy traffic and I was able to pass a couple of cars then. After that it was pretty lonely for me but out of traffic we were the quickest car on the track.”
Bell made it all the way up to seventh place during that final stint, closing the gap to the leader by 15 seconds before taking the chequered flag.
“That was a much more positive weekend,” he said. “That little bit of bad luck probably cost us a podium but I’m happy to have been out there racing and overtaking and I’m delighted with our pace. Derek drove well again and the team did a great job for us in the pits.”
Bell doesn’t have long to wait before he joins Johnston again in the No.17 Aston Martin as the next British GT round is in three weeks time at Brands Hatch on the August Bank Holiday weekend.