22 June, 2015
Rob Bell rejoined Von Ryan Racing last weekend, hot on the heels of Rob’s seventh appearance at the famed Le Mans 24 Hours race. The McLaren GT factory driver returned to the McLaren 650S GT3 race car for the fourth round of the Blancpain Endurance Series which was held at Paul Ricard circuit. Driving with fellow McLaren GT factory driver, Kevin Estre and Frenchman, Nicolas Lapierre, the No. 58 car qualified seventh. All set for a hard-charging race Rob was behind the wheel for the start, but was hit in the run through the first few corners, forcing retirement from the race.
Rob was buoyed by the winning performance of the Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S GT3 at Silverstone last time out in this Series and was looking to build on this at Paul Ricard. The free practice and pre-qualifying sessions were used by the team to finetune the car set up for qualifying and the race. In qualifying all three drivers put in strong lap times in their sessions, with the best of the times producing a fourth row grid slot for the No.58 car.
Rob took the start for the team, lining up on the grid in sixth place after the second placed car was penalized for a regulations infringement. The green flag flew for the start and Rob quickly made up ground to lie in fifth place, but then yellow flags were shown and the grid completed a second formation lap, with the race being restarted. When the green flag was shown for the second time the pack was tight at the front, with Rob marking a good start and all the front-running cars making it cleanly through the first four turns. Heading into Turn 5 Rob took the inside line but unfortunately the No.8 Bentley came past off track and out of control, collecting a Ferrari ahead of Rob. The quick-thinking driver tried to avoid the incident, leaving him with only moving over to the left, but the spinning Ferrari rolled back and hit Rob’s McLaren 650S, damaging the suspension beyond repair, an early end to the race for the No.58 car.
Rob said of the weekend, “it was so disappointing to be put out the race right at the start. Although we’d struggled on pace in the early part of the weekend we’d found the time in qualifying. With a long hour race ahead it was going to be all about pace and reliability, which we’d proved in Silverstone that we had. It’s a shame we didn’t have a chance to prove our potential in Paul Ricard, but that’s racing for you. With the six hours duration it would have been a good test for the Spa 24 Hours as well. I’ve just got to be very British and keep my chin up for Spa.
Rob now heads to Moscow for the next round of the Blancpain Sprint Series in two weeks time. Next up for the Blancpain Endurance Series is the Total 24 Hours of Spa on 25th – 26th July.