16 April, 2013
McLaren factory driver, Rob Bell, celebrated podium success at the first round of the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series with a third place PRO Cup finish in Monza, driving a McLaren MP4-12C GT3 with Adam Carroll and Nico Verdonck for Gulf Racing.
The team were strong from the start of the weekend in Italy, with Bell putting the McLaren MP4-12C second fastest of the PRO Cup runners in the first practice session of the season. He backed this up with a sixth in class qualifying time, to line up 10th on the grid for the start of the race.
Bell started the race in the Gulf Racing No.69 car and was quickly into his stride and moving up the grid, handing over to team mate Verdonck in fifth position. A lightning quick pitstop catapulted us into the lead after the first round of stops, but the Ferrari was in a hurry and got past the Gulf Racing McLaren. Verdonck put in a solid drive but a delay in the second pitstop pushed the team down the order, as Carroll got behind the wheel for the final stint.
The closing stages produced plenty of excitement for the PRO Cup podium with Carroll in the thick of the action. The Irishman was lying in fourth place and hard on the rear wing of the Team WRT Audi throughout his stint, while also defending from the fifth placed AF Corse Ferrari. Carroll’s patience and dogged determination was rewarded on the final lap when he was able to make a bold pass on the Audi coming out of the famed Parabolica to wrench the final podium sport for the Gulf Racing team. With just 0.028 seconds margin it was a close run finish, with a delighted Bell congratulating his team mate.
He said after the race, “I had a great weekend, really enjoying the racing and battling it out with a very big field – over 60 cars – which made it a very busy track. Two safety car periods didn’t help us when we’d built up a healthy 12 second lead, but Adam nailing the podium place was a great result. It was a fantastic team effort in and out of the car.
“We had a good pace all weekend and the car was great, so it was an encouraging start to the season. With so many cars on track it makes it as much of a mental test as a physical one and keeping every lap as quick and consistent as possible becomes a challenge with back-markers and other class cars to overtake. It makes for very exciting racing!”
Bell returns home to be reunited with wife Gill and two weeks old baby boy, Oliver. He will be back out racing next month with Aston Martin Racing at Spa, in preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours which he is contesting with the team later this year. The second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series will be on home turf for Bell, taking place at Silverstone race circuit, from 1-2 June.