15 September, 2014
Matt Bell ended the 2014 British GT Championship season on a high today, taking the chequered flag in third place after two hours of flat out racing at Donington Park. Matt and his long-time team mate, Mark Patterson, steered the No.23 Audi R9 LMS ultra to a trophy-winning finish, determined to grab a top result after a season strewn with bad luck.
Both drivers went into Saturday’s qualifying session feeling very positive, knowing that they had a fast car under them.
“We knew that the optimum lap would be the second or third flyer,” explained Matt. “At the end of my first flying lap I had a purple (i.e. fastest of all) final sector which set me up perfectly for lap two. The first part of the next lap was fast again. And then the floor fell off!”
He was forced to dive into the pits for repairs but with no time left in his session they had to hope that Mark’s time would be fast enough to keep them at the sharp end of the aggregate grid. It was, so they grabbed fifth place for the start of the two-hour season-ending race.
“Mark pulled us out of the fire there,” explained Matt. “We then got a further boost when we were promoted to fourth when a competitor was penalised so we were feeling positive again.”
There was one more snag to come though and it showed itself after the morning warm up session today.
“We had a bit of a scare after warm up when we found a problem with our gearbox,” said Matt. “It was only because of some brilliant work by the United Autosports crew that we were able to make it to the grid on time.”
When the race got underway Mark was at the wheel of the Audi. He got away well and despite having to relinquish a place he regained fourth and was running well throughout his stint. To continue what has become an unwelcome pattern for Mark this year he was spun around by an Aston Martin but he recovered and came in for the mid-race pit stop in ninth place.
Once all of the teams had completed their pit stops Matt was in eighth place, determined to haul the Audi right up the order.
“I really enjoyed my stint today,” he said. “I had a great fight with Joe Osborne in the BMW, then Michael Lyons in the Ferrari and Rory Butcher in the Aston. This took me up to fourth place so I knew I needed to catch the leading pack in order to fight for a podium place. As I came around the last corner I could see them at the end of the pit straight. Caine was still ahead in the Aston at that point but soon after that he dropped to third.
“It was so hard to past Caine,” Matt continued. “We had a big scrap for about three laps before I could pass him and set off after the top two cars.”
By the end of the race Matt was within striking distance of second place, his pace clearly illustrated by the fact that he gained 25 seconds on the leader from the moment he jumped into the Audi.