26 May, 2015
McLaren GT factory driver, Rob Bell, stood on the top step of the podium at Silverstone yesterday, after a superb Blancpain Endurance Series race win. Alongside fellow factory drivers Kevin Estre and Shane Van Gisbergen, Rob was delighted to have played his part in bringing home the Von Ryan Racing No.58 Mclaren 650S GT3 to victory, it’s first win since its arrival on the racing scene in December last year.
The Silverstone event was the second round of the prestigious Blancpain Endurance Series and the only race of the championship on home soil for the Lancashire-based driver. The weekend began with a 90 minutes practice session on Saturday. The team used the time to develop the set up of the car for the weekend, ending the session 21st fastest.
After the session and a thorough debrief the drivers and engineers identified a raft of changes to improve the car’s performance and put these to a positive outcome in the prequalifying session with the No.58 car improving to fifth quickest at the end of the 90 minutes session.
Qualifying for the three hour race was early on Sunday morning and with changeable weather, it was challenging conditions. A great effort by Rob put the team at the top of the timesheets in the first qualifying session, Shane put in a sterling effort in a wet second session and Kevin backed this up with fourth fastest lap in the final session and their efforts put the car on the second row of the grid for the start of the race.
Rob took the grid to start the race in the No.58 Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S GT3 car and immediately showed he meant business, making a bold move on the second placed Ferrari after just a few corners to snatch it away. He then started to put the power down to challenge the pole-sitter No.23 Nissan that had led the grid off the line. However, the lead car had started with a blistering pace and Rob was working hard to stay with him. He was lying just three seconds behind the leader when a full course yellow flag slowed the field. Von Ryan Racing and a few other teams took the decision to pit under the yellow, while the leader stayed on track. Rob handed the car over to Shane and he rejoined the field in 13th place. After all the cars had made their first pitstop the team’s decision to pit under yellow proved a great tactical move, with Shane taking the lead within the second hour of the race.
As the race moved into its final hour Kevin took over the wheel from Shane and with a sizeable lead over the second placed car, the focus turned to reliability and the McLaren 650S proved to have this as well as a race-winning pace. Kevin took the chequered flag over 20 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Rob said of the weekend, “It’s great to have won today, especially after the first round in Monza had been very difficult. The work put in by Von Ryan Racing to change this around has been enormous, but has paid off with the best result possible.
“The car ran faultlessly throughout the race”, adds Rob. “It was the right strategy to pit under the yellow and that really did secure the win, but I think even without that, we had the pace to be able to take the fight to the rest of the field, and I think we’re now championship contenders. It’s been a great weekend - I love being on top of the podium!”
Rob now turns his attention to the Le Mans 24 Hour race test, travelling to La Sarthe later this week to prepare for the test with Aston Martin Racing, the team he’s competing with for this famed race. He then heads to Zolder for the next round of the Blancpain Sprint Series, racing the McLaren 650S GT3 with Attempto Racing, before returning to Le Mans for the race itself.