14 August, 2017
British racer survives bad luck to finish as runner-up in LMP3 Cup standings
Matt Bell has locked up second position in the Henderson Insurance Brokers LMP3 Cup Championship on the penultimate weekend of the series at Snetterton, with a fast setup on his Ligier JS P3 helping him overcome a tricky weekend mired with misfortune.
Bell and co-driver Tony Wells enjoyed good pace at the Norfolk circuit on 12-13 August, following a productive test day at the track on Thursday, sending the United Autosports pairing into the weekend in a strong position.
“We tested here on Thursday and felt really happy with the car and had strong pace, so we were very buoyant coming into the weekend and really excited having worked all day,” said Bell.
Wells qualified the No. 3 Ligier in third position missing pole by just 0.2 seconds, but hit trouble on the opening lap with an engine failure ending his and Bell’s race prematurely.
The team worked hard overnight to prepare the spare car in time for Sunday’s race and Wells adapted to the new chassis instantly, once again qualifying third for the second race of the weekend and even improving on his lap time by enough to have put him on pole in Race One.
Despite picking up some bodywork damage after light contact with the sister United Autosports car, Wells and Bell powered through to run a solid race on Sunday afternoon, eventually finishing in fourth position.
The field bunched up in the final few laps and Bell was able to attack for third position even with reduced aero following the contact. Ultimately, he finished just 2.6 seconds behind after 60 minutes of close racing.
Unfortunately, the retirement on Saturday put Bell and Wells in a challenging position in the title standings despite winning several races earlier in the season, but they come away from Snetterton confirmed second in the inaugural season of the LMP3 Cup, with two races remaining.
While he is disappointed at the outcome of the weekend, Bell is pleased to have had such a strong Ligier after a productive test day, and feels much more success could have been achieved if not for circumstances out of his control.
“Of all the weekends where we've talked about going for a double-win, after the test on Thursday, we were very confident we could pull that off,” he believes. “It just wasn't meant to be."
The final two rounds of the LMP3 Cup will take place at Donington Park on 16-17 September but next for Bell is the Michelin Le Mans Cup race at Paul Ricard in France on August 26, where he will be joined by Jim McGuire in the United Autosports Ligier.
“I'm excited for Paul Ricard because I like the circuit and I'm really enjoying Michelin Le Mans Cup this year,” he said.
“It's a new circuit for Jim but we will do a test day in the build-up to the weekend so we'll make sure he has a lot of laps and seat time to get the circuit under his belt.
“We'll certainly be aiming for a top six finish again.”