21 June, 2016
Matt Bell enjoyed his first race at the world-famous Le Mans 24 Hours circuit last weekend, showing impressive pace in the ‘Road to Le Mans’ support race. Held ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Road to Le Mans provides drivers with the chance to race on the impressive 13.629km track and Bell demonstrated the speed at which he can learn a new track and indeed a new race car.
The 26-year-old and his 2014 British GT champion co-driver Marco Attard made up two positions from where they started during the 55-minute race in which Bell set the third fastest GT3 Michelin Le Mans Cup lap time amongst the 19-strong entry. That was despite this being his maiden outing at Le Mans and first time aboard a Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
The one-off outing also marked a return to GT3 machinery after switching to the European Le Mans Series’ LMP3 class earlier this year.
Attard, who qualified the car, took the start from 14th in class and successfully avoided the first lap skirmishes that saw several drivers forced into the gravel. A similarly trouble-free stint followed before he pitted the #5 FFF Racing Team by ACM Lamborghini from where it had started.
As the line-up’s Pro driver, Bell’s job was to make headway over the second half of the race, although several Slow Zone periods made it tough to mount a sustained challenge. Nevertheless, a series of consistently fast laps and fastest sector times helped Bell overturn a 30-second deficit en route to 12th place at the chequered flag.
“Racing at Le Mans was a new experience for both myself and Marco, so we spent most of practice and qualifying getting him up to speed,” said Bell. “As a result the race was a trip into the unknown for me. There were still a few areas around the circuit where I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could and there was definitely some time left on the table, so to post such fast and consistent laps came as a very pleasant surprise!
“It’s a phenomenal circuit but also one that requires experience because there are so many high risk areas where you can very easily lose time. My older brother and I actually spent some time going around the track earlier this week; he’s raced here many times and knows the place well, so it was nice to get out there together and benefit from his knowledge.
“It’s definitely given me the taste for Le Mans and, like a lot of drivers, I’d love to compete here in the 24 Hours one day. The GT3 times aren’t that far off what the more highly developed GTE cars are achieving, and the LMP3 times are very similar, too, so the step isn’t all that great.”
Bell returns to his regular ELMS duties with United Autosports at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on July 17 when he and co-drivers Mark Patterson and Wayne Boyd will be eager to improve on their current second place in the LMP3 drivers’ standings.