20 June, 2017
McLaren GT Factory Driver, Rob Bell, joined Aston Martin Vantage team, TF Sport, for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The #90 car was running well for over half the race, sitting comfortably in the top three, but incidents later in the race dropped the car back down the order, with the driver trio of Rob, Euan Hankey and Salih Yoluc taking the chequered flag seventh in class.
The traditional town square scrutineering kicked off the event, with qualifying practice split over Wednesday and Thursday with day and night running for all the drivers. After the final qualifying session the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage was eighth quickest in class.
Rob was selected to take the race start and he was quickly into his stride and moving up to fourth by lap 10. The first full course yellow after 20 laps saw Rob lying in third place. Over the first half of the race the team ran in the top five, moving up to second place at mid-distance.
As the race reached Hour 15, while running third, Salih ran off track into the gravel, with valuable time lost while the car was pulled out and he was able to get back running. The team had dropped back down the order, but Rob showed he was pushing as hard as possible when he posted a new in-race lap record for GTE Am with a 3 min 53.320 seconds lap after 17 hours of running on his 166th lap.
A few laps later a clash with a Ferrari caused damage to the rear of the #90 car and the crew had to work quickly to repair the car and get it back out on track. After 24 hours of the famed race the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage took the chequered flag in seventh place of the GTE Am Class.
Rob said of his ninth appearance at the Le Sarthe circuit, “It’s been a great week racing with TF Sport and being reacquainted with the Aston Martin Vantage, which performed really well throughout the race. Just to reach the chequered flag is an achievement in its own right and the team worked tirelessly to ensure we made it. The win continues to elude me, although we were running in a podium spot for a substantial amount of the race. But it’s tough and there was tough competition too. I’ll just have to get back here next year for another crack at it!”
Rob continues his racing season with the third event of the Blancpain Endurance Series this weekend at the Paul Ricard circuit in France, when he returns to the Strakka Racing McLaren 650S GT3.