12 April, 2016
McLaren GT Factory Driver, Rob Bell, is paired with Alvaro Parente for this season’s Blancpain Sprint Series and the duo contested the first round of the championship at Misano circuit in Italy this weekend. Driving with Garage 59 in one of the team’s McLaren G50S GT3 cars, the duo kicked off with an impressive performance. Second fastest lap in the second practice session, a front row grid slot, ninth place finish in the qualifying race and fourth place in the main race was a very strong start for the experienced driver pairing and the new Garage 59 team.
Friday’s two practice sessions were the first chance for Rob and Alvaro to familiarise themselves with the Misano circuit, with neither of the experienced drivers having raced at the circuit previously. Second fastest lap in second practice, which was held in very wet conditions, was a good result in a shortened session.
Alvaro qualified the car for the first of the two one-hour races and lining up second on the grid for the night race under the floodlit circuit and with a damp track, the team opted for wet tyres for the green flag. The #58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3 chased after the lead #1 WRT Audi as racing began, but with tyre pressures which weren’t optimal for the track conditions, Alvaro slipped down the order. Rob took over the wheel for the second half of the race with the #58 lying in 16th place. He quickly got up to speed and by the end of the race had made his way into the top ten, crossing the line in ninth place.
Drier weather produced better racing conditions for the main race of the weekend. Rob lined up ninth for the start and was quickly into his stride, moving up to fifth place by the end of his stint. Alvaro took over from Rob and had another strong 30 minutes of running, crossing the line in fourth place.
Rob said of the weekend, “Overall the car was quick and ran with a competitive pace, despite all the various weather conditions. Neither Alvaro nor I had been to Misano before and the first few sessions were all very diffierent – wet, dry, day, night, greasy, slick, all sorts – so it wasn’t easy for us to get a good set up for the races. We ran well in both races and with two points finishes it was a good start. Garage 59, making its sportscar racing debut here, did a great job while finding their feet, so it was a solid result and I’m looking forward to the next outing with them.”
Rob will return to the cockpit next weekend, with his first race in the British GT championship, driving a McLaren 650S GT3 for Ecurie Ecosse in this premier British sportscar series. He then heads to Monza, to contest the first round of the Blancpain Endurance Series with Garage 59.