16 October, 2012
Leading British sportscar racer, Rob Bell, finished his debut season of racing with the Gulf Racing team and the McLaren MP4 12C GT3 race car at Navarra in Spain this weekend, the venue for the final round of the 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series. Bell and his team mate, Michael Wainwright finished in 14th place in the Pro-Am Class and 25th place overall in the sixth round of this well-supported GT3 championship.
Bell had a good start to the weekend, posting third quickest lap in the first practice session, the fastest McLaren of the seven examples competing at the Spanish track. The Newcastle-born racer then improved to second quickest in pre-qualifying, with the No.9 car lining up in eighth for the start of yesterday's race.
The first stint of the race saw Bell behind the wheel and he took little time to make his way through the field, finally pitting from third position to hand over to Wainwright. His team mate was running well on a dry track, but a torrential downpour turned the tarmac into a treacherously slippery track with rivers of water creating problems up and down the field. The bad weather saw many incidents and finally brought out a safety car, which stayed on track until the race was red flagged.
Bell said of the weekend, "We started well and were up there at the front, although we never really got to the grips with the car. It rained in the middle of qualifying which dropped the temperature and I don't think we got the best out of the tyres, so ending up eighth quickest wasn't too bad. I wasn't surprised to see another McLaren taking pole as it was definitely the car to beat."
Of the race Bell reflects, "I had a good stint and enjoyed making my way through the traffic. We were the lead ProAm car when I handed over to Mike from third place overall, so I was quite pleased. Mike got the short straw though, as he had to contend with some of the worst weather I've seen for a long time. It was really tough conditions for him to be driving in and it was a very steep learning curve having to cope with an aquaplaning car, limited visibility and a busy field of cars all struggling for grip."
Reviewing the season Bell concludes, "As a McLaren factory driver, I've enjoyed being part of the McLaren MP4-12C development programme. Each race since the Monza opener this great British sportscar has improved and this weekend it took a very well-deserved win. It's been rewarding to have been part of this success, through the development work that I and the other McLaren drivers have undertaken during the year and I'm sure we'll continue to build on this next season."