24 October, 2017
Matt Bell took his best result of the Michelin Le Mans Cup season in the final race at Portimao on Sunday, finishing third at the Portuguese circuit in his No. 22 United Autosports Ligier JS P3, alongside co-driver Jim McGuire.
Bell and McGuire finished fourth on the track after a tricky start to the two-hour race but were moved up to third following a post-race penalty for another car.
It closes the pair’s Le Mans Cup season on a high after McGuire was able to show great improvement all season long on circuits that were new to him.
“Jim has been gradually making progress and he's been getting better and better at circuits that are not easy to learn,” Bell said.
“Portimao is a daunting place because it's got a lot of blind hills and crests to it takes a lot of time to get your confidence up. I was really pleased with what he did.”
McGuire started the race from 12th position after a close-fought qualifying session and put in a strong performance despite difficult conditions as a result of the cold weather for the 9 a.m. race start. The conditions made it difficult to keep heat in the tyres, worsened by safety car periods to retrieve stricken cars.
“Jim’s first stint was a very tricky stint,” Bell explained. “It was an early race start for the only time this season and we had the coldest temperatures of the weekend. We couldn’t get much heat into the tyres as a result and any heat we managed to keep was then lost in the safety car periods.”
Fortunately, a smooth pit stop from the United Autosports crew midway through the race put Bell in a good position as he took over the car, ready to attack the final hour. He joined the race in 14th position and fought his way through to fourth at the chequered flag, closing the gap to the leader by 30 seconds along the way!
“The car felt really good and it was one of the fastest on the track,” he said. “We finished fourth but got moved up to third so we’re really pleased with that.
“We’ve been working towards making small improvements all year and they really came together for this race. Yes, we had a bit of good luck to get the podium finish but I firmly believe you make your own luck in motorsport and a great car and brilliant team effort put us in a position to benefit from the mistakes of others.
“I’m really grateful for the crew giving us such a good car this weekend and proud of Jim for doing so well again. I’ve enjoyed this season a lot and I’m definitely looking forward to what’s in store next year!”