17 March, 2014
Some people say that the Sebring 12 Hours is tougher than the Le Mans 24 Hours. Geordie racer Matt Bell won’t have any trouble believing that statement after making his debut in the gruelling once-around-the-clock endurance race last weekend.
Competing for Paul Miller Racing in the No.48 Audi R8 LMS, Matt and his team-mates finished the race in 12th position in class after late race contact put them out of contention for a podium finish.
The first half of the race went according to plan for the team, cycling through the drivers who all had impressive stints. Qualifying had been tough so they started way back in 18th place. Christopher Haase was in the hot seat for the start and had to negotiate a 60 plus car traffic jam before handing the Audi over to Bryce Miller who in turn handed the car over to Matt in a hard-earned 10th position.
By the halfway mark Matt had got the No.48 Audi up to fourth place so the team looked like it would be in a good position to fight for a podium finish.
Just after the eight-hour mark when running in fifth place the Audi was hit by a Prototype driver who misjudged a gap and sent Miller back to the pits for repairs. The team turned the car around in just 12 minutes but the time lost meant that a podium was out of sight.
"There were a lot of crashes in the race due to poor driving standards and we were a victim of that,” said Matt. “Bryce was driving and he had no chance of avoiding such a reckless move. It was a shame as we were running competitively and I was very quick in my last stint. We could have challenged for a podium."
Matt took the Audi to the chequered flag, crossing the line in 12th place.
"On a positive note it was fantastic to be part of the Paul Miller Racing team for my first Sebring 12 Hours,” concluded Matt. “They did a great job on strategy and set up to get us into the top six and then to get us back in the race after the contact. Sebring is an amazing event and I can't wait to go back! I wish the team the best of luck as they head into the rest of the season."
Matt’s attention will now turn to the British GT Championship, which gets underway next month at Oulton Park.