19 August, 2014
The fourth round of the GT Asia Series produced another podium finish for Rob Bell this weekend. The Lancashire driver was racing at Sepang with Clearwater Racing, sharing the driving duties with regular team mate in this series, Hiroshi Hamaguchi. The duo piloted the team’s McLaren MP4-12C to a third place finish in the first race and a fourth place in the second race.
The Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, played host to the GT Asia Series and with a 28-car field entry list, Rob expected a competitive weekend of racing. As the home race for Clearwater Racing, the pressure was on for a strong performance from Rob and Hiroshi. The unofficial practice sessions were the first opportunity for Rob to assess the level of competition for the McLaren GT and it proved to be the Clearwater Racing sister car, a Ferrari 458 Italia, and the AF Corse Ferrari that were the pace setters. After the two 60-minute sessions Rob and Hiroshi were ninth fastest overall.
Weather proved to be the biggest challenge for qualifying, with a downpour just before the session, forcing the team’s to change their strategy at the last minute. After a frantic qualifying, the McLaren MP4-12C lined up in seventh place on the grid for the first race. Rob made up ground from the start, settling into a podium spot before handing over to Hiroshi for the run to the chequered flag. A third place finish was the reward for their efforts.
The team’s qualifying for the second race put them in seventh place on the grid and once again they were able to improve on this start position during the race. With hot weather and a highly competitive field, the challenge was to manage the tyres and stay out of trouble. Both Rob and Hiroshi put in good stints, but with ‘success’ parity incurred for their podium place in the first race, extra time in the compulsory pit stop hampered the duo’s efforts to record a second podium and came home in fourth place.
McLaren GT factory driver, Rob said of the weekend, “It was all about tyres this weekend and we didn’t really get the best out of them, so weren’t able to take the fight to the leaders on this track in the hot conditions. However, we did the best we could and managed to notch up another podium, which was good. Salvaging two strong finishes ensured we kept the lead of the championship, although the gap is now only 11 points to the second placed car, which is another Clearwater Racing entry. We’ll need to put in some work between now and the next round, as that’s back at Sepang and we’ll need to up our game to stay in the lead with our team mates breathing down our necks.”
Rob returns to Malaysia for the fifth round of the Series which will be held from 12 – 14 September.