14 April, 2012
The two Gulf Racing UK McLaren MP4-12C GT3 cars, running in the distinctive Gulf Oil International colours, will start tomorrow's opening round of the 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series from 34th and 53rd places on the grid. This is the team's first foray into the highly competitive, burgeoning world of international GT3 racing.
Taking part in two of the three qualifying sessions available to the field of 56 cars (as the team is only running two drivers per car instead of three), there were frustrations in Q2 due to red flag interruptions which disrupted the flow for both Rob and Stuart.
Bell, a McLaren GT factory driver, was the second quickest in the Pro-Am class and fourth quickest of the ten McLaren MP4-12C GT3s lining up on the grid for the season opener at the historic, high-speed Monza circuit, a place steeped in racing history. Built in the middle of woodland in the Royal Villa of Monza Park, the 5.793 kilometres (3.6 mile) Grand Prix track features such evocative names as the Curva di Lesmo, the Curva Parabolica, and the Variante Ascari.
With some high-profile casualties up and down the pit lane, Gulf Racing UK was pleased to come through the qualifying sessions without any problems or damage as Team Owner and driver of car No. 69, Roald Goethe, noted: "I only did three laps but I am happy. We got through qualifying unscathed with no gravel anywhere and I found 1.5 seconds from yesterday in my lap time, so it's not too bad."
Stuart Hall was particularly disappointed with how qualifying turned out for him: "Every time I tried to back off from the traffic and get a clear lap, there was someone else in front of me. It's not an excuse but it was a bit of a frustration. Tomorrow will be another day though and we'll see what it brings."
Placed 15th overall after the end of the second session, Rob Bell had to watch as the times tumbled during the final 15 minutes of qualifying: "It was a frustrating session with the red flag interruptions but you've got to deal with it haven't you? We probably got out of it as much as we could have expected. I'm disappointed for being where we are on the grid, as you always want to be at the top, but considering the little amount of testing we've had, and the some of the hitches during those tests, it was okay and today gives us something to build on. We've still got one or two issues with the car that we've got to look at tonight and hopefully make it a reliable race car for tomorrow that we can both go forward in."
Gulf Racing UK's co-owner Mike Wainwright enjoyed the experience of his first qualifying session. "I hadn't really thought about that fact till now, but it was enjoyable and a good experience. I've got a bit of learning to do in terms of finding the right gaps but overall it was okay. We're making progress step by step and I'm listening to Rob, to what he's doing and I'm not doing and I'm taking it corner by corner and gaining in confidence. I think I will benefit from this in the race, once into a stint and being able to do a lot of laps. I feel comfortable and that's a good start."
Gulf Racing is an evolution of the Gulf AMR Middle East team which ran in the ILMC, is wholly owned by Mike Wainwright and Roald Goethe and, as previously stated, will be managed by David Price in the UK. Gulf Racing Middle East is a separate team based out of Dubai, and there is no cross-over between the two.