24 September, 2015
Teamwork and strong strategy resulted in a well-deserved victory for McLaren GT works driver, Rob Bell, and his team mates at the Nurburgring round of the Blancpain Endurance Series last weekend. From 24th on the grid to first place, it was an impressive performance by Rob, Shane Van Gisbergen and Kevin Estre in the No.58 Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S GT3 race car.
The weekend began with practice on Saturday morning and 15th quickest time in class, with this performance repeated in the pre-qualifying session in the afternoon. In qualifying, the No.58 car was placed 24th overall, following three sessions where weather played a key role. The first session was wet, the second damp and the third dry, resulting in quicker times as the sessions progressed. However, Kevin, driving in the final, dry, session, was caught out by a red flag flying on his best lap, leaving the No.58 well down the order, a position which didn’t reflect the true potential of the car.
Rob started the race and was able to keep out of trouble in the customary jostling for position through the first lap, particularly with a 55-strong field. He was quickly into his stride, passing five cars on the first lap and then picking off a few more as the race settled down.
After 11 laps of running a car stranded in a gravel trap forced the deployment of the safety car and six laps later racing resumed. However, there were soon waved yellows for the Von Ryan Racing sister No.59 McLaren in the gravel and the team’s pitwall engineers, anticipating a possible second safety car, opted for an early pitstop and brought Rob in after just 40 minutes of racing. With a clear pitlane, the crew were able to perform a speedy stop and get Shane out in an improved position.
After a strong stint Shane, driving to the maximum driver time limit and eeking out his fuel, returned to the pits and with a clear pitlane, handed the car over to Kevin, with another textbook stop which improved the No.58 to eighth place. However, once all the cars had stopped and with blistering laps from Kevin, the Von Ryan Racing No.58 car was in the lead. Kevin controlled the race from the front, building up a gap of seven seconds to his nearest rival with 30 minutes remaining. In the final stages Kevin built a healthy lead over 14 seconds ahead of the second placed car, to take the win, the only model to secure two wins in this series this season.
Rob said after the race, “It was a strong pace and inspired race strategy that won the race for the No.58 McLaren, with perfectly timed pitstops and clear pitlanes which the crew put to good use and helped us jump quite a few cars. We didn’t show our pace in qualifying but it was certainly there for the race and that was all that mattered. It was a brilliant team effort with the race being read really well by the engineers.”
“It was great to finish the season on a high” adds Rob. “We’ve had highs and lows over the course of the Series but we’ve also shown that we’re on par with the competition and that when it all comes together for us we’re unbeatable. Two wins from five rounds was a strong showing but just not quite enough to be in the title hunt. Finishing fourth in both the Team and Drivers Championships was a good result though.”
Rob now turns his attention to the Asian Le Mans Series, with the Lancashire based driver racing with Clearwater Racing in the team’s upgraded McLaren 650S GT3 car. He’ll be in action at Fuji from 10 – 11th October in the first of the four round Series.