12 September, 2011
Rob Bell, driving with James Walker in the JMW Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT2 car posted a top ten finish at the Six Hours of Silverstone Le Mans Series race last weekend, after 360 minutes of frenetic racing and incidents galore up and down the field.
Regular sportscar driver, Bell, had a challenging start to the weekend, with the test sessions regularly interrupted by red flag stoppages and a few technical issues on the car. Despite these setbacks, the team made a good start to the weekend, with Bell topping the timesheets in the GT2 class on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.
"We went into qualifying with quiet confidence after the practice sessions," said Bell. "but it didn't quite go to plan. We knew we would only get one lap out of the tyres as the pace takes a lot out of them, so I was all set for a blistering lap. I was in free air and up on my times in the first couple of sectors, but then saw waved yellows as I came down Hanger Straight. I would still have been on course for a quick lap, but a Porsche ahead on an outlap slowed to let me pass, which I couldn't do because of the waved yellows. I ended up having to abort the lap, but I reckon we would have been third or fourth quickest. We finished P9, but were 4/10ths off P3, so it was a very competitive session."
The start of the race, produced plenty of action as always, and with Bell in the thick of the pack, he skilfully avoided any incidents and moved up the order. It was not long into the race before the tyres of the JMW Motorsport Ferrari 458 began to drop off and Bell struggled to maintain a strong and consistent pace. He pushed on, coping with the tyre degradation, until the Audi driven by Allan McNish tried to pass, but hit Bell's Ferrari, which prompted a one minute drive-through penalty for the JMW team, despite Bell's belief that it was the not his error.
Bell explains, "I was very disappointed to have been given a penalty, but the one minute stop-go ended any chances that we could get on the podium, which was a realistic ambition for us. It's very frustrating, as we had a good strategy with only four pitstops and we could have been higher up the order at the end. That's racing though and you just have to take it on the chin and move on. We were very hopeful going into the Silverstone weekend, but it just didn't happen for us."
Bell now turns his attention to the next Le Mans Series event which takes place at Estoril, Portugal on 24th – 25th September.