25 September, 2012
Leading GT driver, Rob Bell, demonstrated his prowess in sportscar racing at the weekend's Blancpain Endurance Series race in Nurburgring, Germany. Driving a Gulf Racing UK McLaren MP4-12C GT3, the Merseyside-based driver qualified fastest of the seven McLaren GT3 cars present and during the race came through to the front and led the 45 car field until pitting at the end of his stint. The No.9 car driven by Bell with team mate, Mike Wainwright, ultimately finished 31st overall after a number of delays during the course of the three hour race.
The weekend began with a strong practice session for Bell, posting second fastest time of the session, less than four tenths of a second behind the quickest car, another McLaren GT3. In the pre-qualifying session Bell improved to be the pace-setting McLaren MP4-12C and fourth in class overall. In final qualifying Bell continued to be the fastest McLaren and posted fifth fastest lap in class, which put the No.9 car 14th on the grid.
Newcastle-born Bell said after qualifying, "The times were very tight in the session and I ran some quick laps improving on our practice times, but it just seemed that some of the other had improved their times just that little bit more."
Bell lined up in 15th place for the start after a grid penalty for pit lane speeding incurred earlier in the weekend (one of a number allocated to entrants up and down the grid) dropped the car back a place. The start of the race produced a familiar jostling for position with the first four corners producing plenty of action. Bell, as a seasoned professional, expertly picked his way through the melee, emerging in 10th by the end of the opening lap.
As the race settled Bell climbed a further two places to eighth when a safety car period forced him to hold position. The team had opted to leave Bell out as long as possible and with others pitting around him, Bell took the lead when the safety car pitted. He quickly showed the potential for the McLaren MP4-12C as he pulled away from the chasing pack, building a comfortable gap before handing the car over to Mike Wainwright in the second hour of running.
Unfortunately the lead wasn't to remain as, shortly after Mike Wainwright took the wheel in the second hour, he was hit on the right rear of the car and lost time getting going again. A further delay to attend to a seat belt problem set back the No.9 to a position it wasn't able to recover from.
Bell concluded of the weekend, "Our final finish position was disappointing, but overall there are plenty of positives from our trip to Nurburgring. The Gulf Racing UK crew had meticulously prepared the car and worked well all weekend to put us in the best possible position; this hard work paid off as we proved to be the quickest McLaren of the field. In race trim we were a match for all the other marques and when we were running out front we showed the pace we have in the car. Each outing we're making strides, so it will be great to get back out on track at Navarra for the final round of the Series."
The sixth and final round of the Blancpain Endurance Series takes place at the Navarra circuit in Spain on Sunday, 14th October.