14 June, 2017
The International GT Open Series moved to Paul Ricard for the third round of the championship. Rob Bell partners with Shaun Balfe in a McLaren 650S GT3 for this series, driving for Balfe Motorsport, with the two French races producing fourth and fifth place PROAM class finishes for the duo. This puts them second in the overall PROAM Drivers Championhip with four rounds remaining.
Warm weather and 28 cars on track produced a busy day of Free Practice running on Friday, with the #22 McLaren running comfortably in the top ten in both sessions. It was a closely fought Qualifying session with Rob taking the wheel and putting the car on the second row of the grid, with fourth fastest time.
The afternoon’s race produced plenty of great battles. Rob had a blistering start and was up into second place off the grid, holding this position but struggling to keep the #488 Ferrari at bay. Rob presses on and hands over the car to Shaun for the second half of the race. With a 10 second pitstop ‘handicap’ from the Spa race, the extra time in the pits puts the #22 back down to seventh place and fighting hard with four other cars for sixth. In the ensuing battle Shaun drops back to ninth overall, and fourth in the PROAM Class at the chequered flag.
Shaun is piloting the McLaren 650S for qualifying for the second race, with the high heat of Paul Ricard adding to the challenge for the Balfe Motorsport driver. After an intense session Shaun was 20th fastest to take a 10th row grid slot.
Shaun took the start for the second race and climbed to 18th place before handing over to Rob for the second part of the race. Initially a lap down on the leaders, rob was able to unlap himself after all the pitstops and over the course of the race fired through the field to finish in 12th.
Rob reflected on the weekend, “This track and the high temperatures didn’t really suit us and we struggled to get the best out of the car. We didn’t seem to have the straight line speed of the front-runners and on this quick circuit that really hurt us. The car balance was good, but all the McLarens seem to be struggling after the latest BOP change, so all in all, didn’t have the type of weekend that we’ve had in the previous two rounds. On the up side, we were the top McLaren all weekend. We picked up some valuable points though, so we’re very much in the PROAM championship hunt, just two points behind the leaders.”
Rob now turns his focus to the famed Le Mans 24 Hour race, where he joins TF Sport, driving an Aston Martin Vantage in this tough endurance event.