20 August, 2018
Matt Bell celebrated his first win of the season at Silverstone last weekend in the four-hour European Le Mans Series (ELMS) race. This result has boosted the British driver to third place in the LMP3 championship standings.
It has been a tough ELMS season so far for the #3 United Autosports Ligier JS P3 that Bell shares with Garrett Grist and Tony Wells and it was a delight to see a lot of hard work pay off at Silverstone.
The event started well when Bell took fourth place in Qualifying, the highest starting position for the #3 crew so far this year. Bell felt that he could have challenged for pole position if he’d had a clear run so was actually disappointed to be fourth but encouraged by the pace.
Grist was behind the wheel for the start of the race on Sunday afternoon and he made a lightning getaway, moving up to second place straight away. He was soon harassing the leader but just couldn’t find a way past the #12 car.
Bell jumped in for the second stint and continued the battle for the lead. This was put on hold for a while when there was a full course yellow but once the race went green again Bell had his sights set firmly on the lead.
He made his move two laps later, passing the #12 car around the outside at Turn 3. Once the job was done he proceeded to ease away and open up a healthy gap.
“I really enjoyed my stint,” said Bell. “We were battling tyre wear all weekend and we had to push without overcooking the tyres so I was happy to hand the car over to Tony with a clear lead.”
The way the strategy played out for the two United Autosports cars, the #3 crew expected the sister car to join the fight for the lead in the latter stages of the race but an unfortunate mechanical issue put paid to that when they lost a chunk of time in the pits.
“I was gutted about the other car as we lost the chance of a team 1-2 but it meant that Tony then had a clear run to the flag,” explained Bell. “Tony drove a fantastic double stint, his performance sealed the win for us. It was a high pressure stint having inherited the lead and the challenges that were made from behind, but he controlled it brilliantly. He’s always said he can’t drive around Silverstone but together we’ve won our last two races there!”
“It’s a relief to get the win,” he continued. “2018 has been a challenge so far pace-wise. We analysed everything after the last race and eventually ended up switching to a different chassis. That was the right move as we’ve gone from struggling for pace to challenging for pole position and winning the race. It was a massive effort from the team to get the car ready in time and I can’t thank them enough.
“We felt optimistic at the start of the year as we are a strong line-up so it feels good to finally be able to show we can do it. And it’s mega to win. I like winning!”