24 August, 2015
Matt Bell continued his British GT podium run at Snetterton this weekend, taking third place in the first of today’s two one-hour races. Along with his TF Sport team-mate Derek Johnston, Matt also took valuable sixth place points from race two.
After qualifying the #17 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in seventh position on the grid for race one, Johnston got a good start and moved up to sixth place straight away.
“Derek did a great job at the start,” said Bell. “The race settled down pretty quickly and as the stint went on he got quicker and quicker and pulled back some time to the leader who had shot off in the clear air at the start. This was crucial as he gave us a buffer so the five-second success penalty didn’t hurt us in the pits and we actually gained a place.”
Once the mid-race pit stops were complete, Bell was on track in fifth place, chasing down fellow TF Sport racer, Jody Fannin, whilst being chased himself by Jonny Adam’s Aston Martin. The three Vantage GT3s held second, third and fourth (Fannin, Bell Adam) positions for the remainder of the race, lapping as a tight group, not giving away an inch to each other.
“It’s actually quite difficult to overtake at Snetterton as you need to make your move at the exit of the fast corners,” explained Bell. “Once you are right up behind the car in front you lose all of your front aero. I managed to catch Jody quickly but I knew that if I was going to pass him cleanly I would have to do it the moment I caught him. I had a good go but just couldn’t make it stick so after that it was a case of trying to force him into making a mistake but he didn’t make one. I didn’t want to make an over optimistic lunge, especially with Jonny Adam breathing down my neck.”
At the chequered flag Bell crossed the line in third place, taking a much-deserved podium finish.
Race one took place under very sunny Norfolk skies but just before race two the weather changed dramatically.
It was Bell who took the start from a hard-earned second row of the grid and he was able to grab third place at the second corner when Alexander (Sims) and (Rory) Butcher had an altercation. By the end of lap one the order was Adam’s Aston Martin, Osborne’s BMW and Bell’s Aston Martin in third.
“The rain came very late so we were pretty much on a dry set up at the start,” said Bell. “Because of this I was struggling for grip during the early stages. Phil Keen managed to get past me and then Osborne’s BMW so I dropped to fourth. I then got past Osborne after a fun battle, taking third place back from him.”
At the changeover Johnston rejoined the race in fifth place after taking another five-second success penalty. The weather began to rapidly deteriorate during the second half of the race, ultimately being red-flagged for safety reason with 11 minutes left to run. Johnston brought the #17 Aston Martin home safetly in sixth place.
“That was the worst possible scenario for Derek: to jump into a car in atrocious conditions with a dry set up,” said Bell. “The fact that he even managed to take the chequered flag says a lot for him as it was incredibly slippery out there!
“I’m pleased with our Snetterton weekend,” he concluded. “We qualified a bit more towards the sharp end and the podium in race one was a deserved result for TF Sport. In race two we did well considering the conditions and now we continue on to Donington – my favourite circuit – with no time penalty and a car we are very happy with so we’re excited about the last round.”
The final round of the 2015 British GT Championship – a two-hour race at Donington Park – takes place on 13 September.