14 April, 2015
The historic Monza circuit was the setting for the opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series, the traditional starting point for the championship. The Autodromo Nazionale Monza hosted a healthy grid of GT cars including the newest model from McLaren, the 650S. Rob Bell and fellow McLaren GT factory drivers, Kevin Estre and Shane van Gisbergen at Von Ryan Racing debuted the model in this series, finishing a creditable 11th in class, the leading McLaren in the field.
With no fewer than 24 cars entered in the Pro Cup the team did not underestimate the challenges for Monza. The Saturday practice sessions were the first opportunity for the three drivers to work with the Von Ryan Racing crew and start to develop the car. The team worked through a programme that gave each driver time behind the wheel before the qualifying session.
Qualifying proved to be a tough session with the busy track and limited time adding to the challenge for Rob and his teammates. The relative newness of the car and the Balance of Performance (BoP) applied to the car gave the drivers a gauge for its performance potential and with a mid-field grid slot Rob and the team were ready for the race the next day.
The 58-car field was an impressive sight for the start and although they all made it through the first chicane it was a racing incident for two BMWs later in the lap which brought out the first safety car of the race. Staying out of trouble the No.58 Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S GT3 held position and started to settle into a rhythm after the restart.
With an hour and a quarter remaining the first full-course yellow was called to retrieve debris, which bunched up the field, until green flag racing returned and the cars were able to run at full power. With less than an hour remaining another safety car period was needed for a two-car incident at the famous Parabolica and when racing resumed with just over 30 minutes left on the clock it was a sprint to the end for the field. By the chequered flag Rob, Kevin and Shane had worked hard to bring the car home 11th in class.
Rob said after the race, “It was a tough weekend and we struggled to extract the potential from the car. The track didn’t suit the car as much as it did others, but we know there is a lot of work still to be done, but we also know we’ll get there. However on a positive note, the reliability was excellent, the car’s easy to drive and very responsive. There’s adjustment needed in the BoP which is something to consider, we’ll now focus on the improvements needed before the next round.”
Rob’s next race will be the World Endurance Championship Spa 6 Hours at the beginning of May, when he will join Aston Martin Racing in preparation for his Le Mans 24 Hours race with the team.