18 December, 2012
Leading British sportscar driver, Rob Bell, proved his prowess with the fastest lap of the race in the weekend's Gulf 12 Hours at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Making his debut in the Gulf 12 Hours, Bell drove with Alvero Parente and Karim Ojjeh for the Portugese ASM team, the trio piloting a McLaren MP4-12C GT3 car in the second running of the 12 hour endurance race.
The team were strong from the start of the weekend, running comfortably in the lead pack during the practice sessions. The qualifying position was determined by an aggregate of the three drivers times and after three sessions of running the team had posted times which put them eighth on the grid for the race, with Bell and Parente posting lap times close to the quickest times.
Bell was behind the wheel for the first stint of the race, lining up on the fourth row for the start, but quickly showing his speed as he made his way up to fourth place by the end of the opening hour. Handing over the McLaren to Parente, Bell's Portugese team mate continued to make progress and by the end of the second hour was lying second on the track behind the Ferrari 458 of the eventual winning team, AF Corse.
Parente pitted after his stint with Ojjeh taking the driver's seat for the third hour of the race. He was quickly back out into the thick of the action and chasing down the leading pack, however his efforts were in vain when a suspected engine problem forced him to pit the car. The crew quickly went to work to identify the problem and get the car back out on track, but it was a long stop for the team, which put them out of contention for a strong finish. The cause of the issue turned out to be a rogue spark plug, a small component which had a major impact on the race result for the AMS Team.
Bell said of his trip to Yas Island, "I really enjoyed my trip to Abu Dhabi with ASM. Although we didn't feature amongst the lead pack at the end of the race, we proved that the McLaren MP4-12C GT car is a force to be reckoned with. It was a great bonus to have posted the fastest lap of the race.
"It was good to be reunited with Alan Mugglestone, the engineer at ASM, who I've worked with previously during my career" continued Bell. Alan and the rest of the crew are a great bunch of guys who worked really hard throughout the race weekend, so it was a little disappointing that a rogue spark plug put paid to our efforts to be on the podium.
"I'd love to go back to Abu Dhabi for another crack at the Gulf 12 Hours. I love the long distance endurance races and enjoyed racing at the Yas circuit, so I hope there will be an opportunity to return in the future."
Bell is now turning his attention to his 2013 season and finalising plans for his racing programme.