25 April, 2017
Geordie racer left feeling deflated after race one but riding high on the podium in race two.
Matt Bell got his 2017 Henderson Insurance LMP3 Cup Championship challenge off to a good start last weekend, collecting silverware from the second of the weekend’s two races.
In the LMP3 Cup it is the amateur driver who takes the wheel for qualifying and Bell’s team mate, Tony Wells, did a great job to put the No.3 United Autosports Ligier JS P3 in third place on the grid for the one-hour race on Saturday afternoon.
“Tony had a fantastic start to race one,” said Bell. “He went through the gap between second and first and then out-braked the pole sitter into turn one to take the lead! He started to build up a good buffer after that and only lost the lead when he missed a downshift and lost a bit of time in the chicane. It was a great run though and he was second when the Safety Car came out. He got his head down and built up another gap to second before pitting, handing the car to me in second place.”
Bell joined the race in second place but felt something was amiss with the car. He was overtaken but fought back to retake second place and managed to hold position for a while, despite struggling more and more with the car.
“It turned out that we had a slow puncture that we suspect we picked up during the Safety Car period,” he explained. “The car was getting harder and harder to handle and then on the penultimate lap the tyre let go. I managed to get back to the pits and back out in time to take seventh place but we were all feeling a little deflated (!) by the end of race one.”
During Sunday’s qualifying session Wells took third place and again had a good start to the race. He settled into second place after both United Autosports cars passed the pole sitter. Again the two sister cars started to pull away from the field but this time two Safety Car periods kept the whole field together. Bell joined the race in second place and managed to take the lead but didn’t quite have the pace to keep it.
“We finished in second place, which was a good result but now we need to fight for the wins,” said Bell. “United Autosports has done a huge amount of testing on the Michelin tyres for the European Le Mans Series but this was the first time for me and Tony on the new Pirelli tyre so set up-wise we were on the back foot a little.
“Donington was a learning weekend for us,” he continued. “We now have the valuable data we need to make up the pace deficit going forward.”
The next rounds of the LMP3 Cup take place at Brands Hatch on 20/21 May but before that Bell will be on track at Monza in Italy for the first round of the Michelin Le Mans Cup on 13 May.