17 March, 2014
Rob Bell, leading British sportscar driver, celebrated finishing second in the GTLM Class at Sebring 12 Hours this weekend. Driving with Jonathan Bomarito and Kumo Wittmer the trio piloted the SRT Motorsports No.93 Viper GTS-R to a podium position in the gruelling 12 hour race and were just one unlucky break away from a win.
A McLaren factory driver, Rob is racing with the SRT Motorsports team in the premier US endurance events, with Sebring following on from the Daytona 24 Hour race where Rob and his team mates finished sixth.
This year’s Sebring 12 Hour race had many challenges for the team, not least the amount of time spent under yellow flags, restricting the opportunity for flat-out racing. However, the No.93 steered clear of the numerous incidents throughout the race to produce a superb result.
The team used the practice sessions to work on pre-race preparation rather than an all-out pursuit for top speed, before the qualifying session. With little time available, Rob’s time behind the wheel was used to reacquaint himself with the car and its handling characteristics. The following day Kuno Wittmer qualified the No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R eighth fastest in the GTLM field to start on the outside of row four for the race.
After a slow start to the race, with 42 minutes of the first hour spent under safety car, the race began in earnest. By mid-distance the No.93 car was mixing it at the head of the class, having been in the lead during the first half and in touch with the leaders. Rob drove a double stint, taking the lead during his time behind the wheel and helping the team to stay firmly on course for a podium finish. However, more than half of the race's first six hours were run under caution as several competitors had mechanical issues and there were numerous contact incidents. Thankfully the No.93 car avoided being caught up in these and was running fourth after six hours.
In the second half of the race the No.93 Viper GTS-R continued to run reliably and was leading the GTLM class at the start of the final hour. With Jonathan at the wheel and a good pace, it seemed that he would be able to take the win. However, a final caution 50 minutes before the chequered flag sent the No.93 and most of the rivals to the pits for a final refuel. The No.912 Porsche which had been running second had already pitted under a green flag and when Jonathan re-joined the race it was the Porsche which had the lead. Jonathan pushed hard and closed down the Porsche but there was not enough time for him to regain the lead, with the No.93 finally finishing second.
Rob said after the race, “It was great to be on the podium with SRT Motorsports alongside Jonathan and Kuno and it was a well-deserved second place for the team and so nearly the win. It’s a bitter-sweet second, as it was just unlucky timing which benefited the Porsche and not us, but a great result though overall.
“I had a great week in Sebring, thoroughly enjoying driving the Viper and working with all the SRT Motorsports guys. We weren’t the quickest car on track at this event, but we had great reliability, kept ourselves out of trouble - and there was plenty of trouble to avoid on track - and were given excellent pit stops from the crew”.
Rob now returns to the UK to continue his role with McLaren GT, working on the the development programmes for their road and race cars.