25 January, 2016
McLaren GT Factory Driver, Rob Bell, celebrated winning the Asian Le Mans Series GT championship this weekend. The final race of the Series at Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia produced a third place podium for Rob and his teammates, Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa, driving the Clearwater Racing No.3 McLaren 650S GT3. Their title win brings with it an automatic entry to this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours race.
The fourth and final round of the Asian Le Mans Series featured its biggest grid of the season and plenty of hard racing. After two practice sessions it was on to qualifying, with Rob putting the Clearwater Racing McLaren third in the GT class and eighth overall.
The race was held in hot and humid conditions and with strong competition from the GT pole sitter, an Audi R8, along with the Bentley Continental and the BMW Z4, the Clearwater Racing team were on tenterhooks throughout the three hours, knowing they had to finish at least sixth to take the title if their nearest rivals won.
All three drivers rose to the challenge, with smooth, well-paced driving to ensure that the car came home third, and with this result, the GT crown. However, their race wasn’t without drama. Weng started and was running well until the last lap of his stint when he picked up a puncture, costing the team valuable time in a prolonged pit stop. Keita took over the driving for the middle stint and had a good run, before handing the car over to Rob for the final hour. Lying third, Rob was catching the second placed car, who in turn was catching the leader. With five laps to go Rob had narrowed the gap to four seconds and looking on course to take the win, but a very unlucky puncture forced him into the pits for a tyre change. Despite the unexpected stop the team had built up enough of a gap to stay in third at the chequered flag.
Rob said after the weekend, “That was a close run battle and thankfully we managed to hang in there and make sure we took the title. It was hot, sticky and very high stress – both in and out of the car – but we did it and that’s all that matters. We were very close to finishing with another win, so were unlucky to pick up a puncture in the closing stages. Taking the title was the main goal though and it was great to have achieved that.
“ I’m very pleased for Clearwater Racing as they really deserve this title. They’ve put out a highly competitive car at every round, working tirelessly to be challenging for wins every time out. Getting a Le Mans 24 entry is a really well-deserved reward for the team and I hope that they will be able to debut the McLaren 650S at Le Sarthe in June.”
Rob now turns his attention to a new challenge for the Lancashire-based driver, as he heads down under for the Bathurst 12 Hours, his first time at this iconic Australian cicuit.