14 September, 2015
#17 Aston Martin Geordie duo show the pace they have threatened all season.
Matt Bell and Derek Johnston took the #17 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 to an emphatic victory in today’s season-closing British GT race at Donington Park.
The British duo raced hard and stayed out of trouble, unlike many of their competitors in what was one of the most incident-packed British GT races of the year. Both were peerless during their stints, proving that it really does take two to come out on top.
During Saturday’s qualifying sessions, Bell took second place amongst the professional racers, just two-tenths of a second shy of pole position. With grid positions set on aggregate, the combination of Bell’s second place and Johnston’s 10th put them in sixth place for the start of Sunday’s two-hour race.
As usual Johnston was at the wheel of the Aston Martin for the start and when the lights went green he set off like a scalded cat.
“Derek had a great start, getting up to fourth by the end of the first lap,” said Matt. “He then got past Marco Attard in the Barwell BMW for third and set off after Lee Mowle in the Triple Eight BMW. Before we could blink he was in second place and piling pressure on the leader.”
Johnston pitted from second place, handing over the Aston Martin to Bell who promptly got the jump on the race-leading Aston Martin of TF Sport team-mate Jody Fannin.
“I was so happy to see Jody in my mirrors when I joined the race,” he said. “I knew we had the lead and I would just need to take it to the flag.”
It may have looked like a straightforward stint for Bell but the view from the cockpit was very different. Despite this, by the time the chequered flag fell, Bell had pulled out a lead of over 17 seconds.
“My stint may have looked easy from the outside but it was so stressful,” said Bell. “I had no radio – they could hear me but I couldn’t hear them – so when I saw the pit board with ‘fuel save’ on it I didn’t know how much of a problem we had. I then heard a crackly voice saying ‘save save save’. Not knowing was horrible and I can’t begin to tell you how wrong it feels to coast when you are leading a race like that! It was so good to then see ‘fuel ok’ on the pit board so I stuck in some quick laps and enjoyed the end of the race.
“I’m over the moon to win,” he continued. “It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work. Everything was a bit doom and gloom after Silverstone but everyone rallied and we put together an impressive second half of the season, starting at Spa. I can’t praise Derek enough today. He made some brilliant overtakes to make his way up to second. He made my job easy and, combined with the usual great pit work from TF Sport, we dominated today. It’s easy to keep telling people you have potential but today we showed it and it feels good to do what we’ve been threatening to do all year.”
Bell now has an interesting pattern of British GT results at Donington. In 2012 he scored a podium finish. In 2013 he won the race. In 2014 he took another podium and now he has continued the pattern with another win!
“Next year we’re going to have to break that pattern,” he said. “I’m going to expect nothing less than another win!”