14 September, 2009
British racing driver Rob Bell took a superb victory over the weekend in the final race of the 2009 Le Mans Series (LMS) at Silverstone. The Newcastle born driver and team mate Gianmaria Bruni in the JMW Ferrari F430 narrowly missed out on retaining the LMS GT2 drivers and teams crown by only one point after a close, season long battle.
After working hard to find the correct set up on the car, the team were pleased with a second place grid position for Sundays six hour endurance race. The 1000km of Silverstone kicked off just before midday at the Northamptonshire circuit with a cold, slippery circuit awaiting the teams as they lined up on the grid. Bruni made the start for the JMW team, but a slight off on cold tyres on the opening lap pushed him down the order.
A fight back ensued over the following six hours. The duo utilised their home track knowledge and at the end of the first hour, they were back up to sixth. As Bell stepped in the car for his first stint in the second hour, the first round of pit stops had levelled out the order with Bell chasing down the third place car of Johnny Cocker before taking the position on lap 44. As the race reached half way Bruni was back in the driving seat and was only 10 seconds behind the leading IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche.
The second half of the race saw a narrow escape for the team. After Bruni took the GT2 lead at Bridge, the JMW Ferrari was hit hard by the Signature Plus Oreca Courage on the hangar Straight. A right front puncture caused the Ferrari to pit out of sequence and cost the team the lead of the GT2 category.
With their title protagonists’ lying in 10th place and out of their necessary points scoring position, the title was within the grasp of the JMW team. Bell used this motivation to retake the GT2 class lead, a position the team held until the end of the race. However, during the last hour the Felbermayer Proton Porsche managed to move up to eighth place and take home the necessary points to finish ahead of the JMW team.
Bell commented after the weekend, “We knew coming into the weekend that winning the titles was going to be tough, so we concentrated on getting the best result we could from the race and hoped that things would fall into place. We had mixed feelings about the car in the practices sessions and we struggled during the opening stint to get grip into the tyres on a cold track, but the car felt brilliant at the end.
“It really was a bittersweet victory for us. A win is a win and we can’t be disappointed with that, it is also the third year in a row that we have won at Silverstone, so our record is great there. We would just love to have taken the title at our home track in front of the British crowd. Hopefully I’ll be back next year to take it back!”
Bell will be back in action in the FIA GT series at the Algarve Circuit in Portugal on the 19th/20th September.