05 October, 2016
Rob Bell, McLaren GT factory driver, ended his Blancpain GT Series season in Barcelona this weekend, finishing second in the overall British GT Series drivers championship, after being crowned Blancpain Endurance Series Drivers Champion two weeks ago. It was the final round of the Blancpain Sprint Series at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, with Rob sharing the Garage 59 #58 McLaren 650S GT3 with fellow McLaren GT factory driver, Alvaro Parente.
The first practice session, with Rob driving, didn’t produce a quick lap time, with the team opting to run the car on older tyres and not focus on the timesheet, leaving them at the back of the field. In the second session Alvaro was able to improve the car’s pace to finish eighth fastest time.
Rob was behind the wheel for the first qualifying session and put in third quickest lap. Alvaro backed this up with sixth fastest lap in the second session and another sixth fastest lap in the final top 20 shoot out qualifying session, putting the #58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3 sixth on the grid for the start of the qualifying race.
Alvaro took the start for the qualifying race and was in the thick of the melee off the line. The pole sitter had a bad start, while Alvaro and a HTP Mercedes made good starts, but the Mercedes ran out wide and with Alvaro squeezed by his rival and having no where to go he also went off track. Despite giving back two places he had gained Alvaro and the rival Mercedes were given drive through penalties. Once the penalty had been served and Rob was behind the wheel the Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3 had dropped to 20th place.
Rob put in a strong run to try and improve on position, making up a few places over the course of his stint. He was up to 18th place by mid stint, and then grabbed a couple more places to finish 16th at the chequered flag.
Rob was selected to start the main race and from the eighth row grid slot for the start he made up four places on the opening lap. He maintained this position for the first few laps, but struggled with pace after collecting damage in the tough fights for position and dropped back a place, handing the car over to Alvaro from 15th place. After all the mandatory pitstops and driver changes, the #58 car remained in 15th, with Alvaro making up ground further in the last few laps of the race and crossing the finish line in 13th place.
Rob said after the weekend, “It didn’t go my way this weekend, but that’s racing for you. I was in with a shout of the drivers title, but it slipped away from me after the penality, so it was an unfortunate end to a great year. The year started really well for me with the Asian Le Mans Series title and it’s finished well too, winning the Blancpain Endurance Series title and second in the Blancpain GT Series overall. It’s one of the toughest sportscar championships and taking the Endurance Series was a great achievement, not only for me, but also for Garage 59, as a first year entrant in the series. We had a great season and my thanks go to the team, I’m sure we’ll be back next year for another title fight.”