30 May, 2017
The second round of the International GT Open Series produced a podium class finish in the first race and a fifth place in the second race for Rob Bell, driving with Shaun Balfe in the #22 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 650S GT3 at Spa Francorchamps this weekend. The results keep the duo at the top of the ProAm Championship and third overall.
The McLaren 650S GT3 was quick in the hands of Rob for opening practice, with second fastest lap of the session. Shaun took over for the second session and put in a solid 13th quickest lap and the duo were 5th fastest overall by the end of the day. Rob then backed up this performance with a strong showing in qualifying, putting the car fourth on the grid for the first race, the fastest of the ProAm Class.
The first race was held in warm, dry conditions with Rob taking the start of the race. He was quickly into his stride, taking third placed #65 BMW off the line, to run third for 11 laps. After two laps run behind the safety car after an accident, Rob was up to second after the #488 Ferrari pitted earlier than the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 650S. Rob pitted from second at mid-distance, and with the Handicap pit stop time penalty, (an additional 15 seconds for two podium finishes in the first round of the championship) Shaun was back out on track in 8th place and then took 7th to finish in this position at the chequered flag and a second place podium in the ProAm Class.
Shaun started the second race from 16th on the grid, after qualifying in this position earlier in the day, with a wet session producing tricky conditions for Rob’s teammate. Unlike Race 1 the weather conditions were changeable for the second race, making it very tough.
Shaun had a good start and over the course of the first half of the race moved up to 12th place when he made the mandatory driver change, this time with a 20 second penaltry – 15 seconds from the first round in Estoril and 5 seconds from the first race at Spa - and Rob was installed in the car for the second half of the race. Rob was only out on track for four laps before having to return to the pits for wet tyres when torrential rain hit the track. Once he had the new rubber, and after a safety car period due to a number of cars being caught out by the conditions, Rob was ready for the fight to the finish. With only eight minutes of the race remaining he was pushing hard and moved up from 10th place to sixth at the finish line, 5th in the ProAm Class.
Rob said of the weekend, “It’s always a pleasure to race at Spa, but as always, the weather plays a major factor in the results. Shaun and I had a solid weekend, with the car adapting to the difficult weather conditions and handling the technical challenge of the Spa circuit. We didn’t quite have the pace that we had at Estoril, but we were certainly up with the front runners in race trim and I enjoyed plenty of battles on the track in both races. It’s great to be leading the ProAm championship with Shaun and I look forward to our next outing at Paul Ricard next month.”
Rob returns to Strakka Racing duties next weekend, with the Sprint Series racing at Zolder in Belgium.