06 October, 2017
Rob Bell put in an outstanding performance in the penultimate round of the International GT Open Series, with pole position for Race 1, followed by a class win and overall third place podium finish, with the Lancashire driver sharing the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 650S GT3 with Shaun Balfe. In the second race the duo finished 13th overall and a sixth place in the PROAM Class.
After the opening practice sessions Rob was in the car for qualifying for Race 1. The experienced McLaren GT factory driver proved to be the class of the field. Despite not having the top speed in the sectors, the corning dexterity and the smooth driving from Rob put him fastest in all three sectors and close to the end of the session, he took pole.
Rob took the start for the first race and in the drag down to the first corner he was passed by the winning Lamborghini Gallardo. He jostled for second but lost out to a fast-starting BMW and was then overtaken by the eventual second placed Lamborghini. Rob bided his time and was back up to second place by the pitstop window with Shaun taking over and holding position until later in the race when he was passed by a Lamborghini. Finishing first in the PROAM class strengthened the duo’s lead of the championship.
Shaun was in the #22 car for Race 2 qualifying and a spirited session put the McLaren 650S on the seventh row of the grid, with Shaun 4th fastest in the PROAM class. With Race 1 success adding a 10 second pitstop handicap the duo knew this was to be a tough race and it proved that way.
Shaun started the second race and with the midfield melee to the first corner dropped a couple of places and was then struggling to make any headway. The mandatory extra-long pitstop kept the McLaren well down the order and Rob took to the track for the second half of the race with a determination to make up ground. He steadily moved forward over the course of the second half of the race and crossed the line in 13th place overall, sixth place in PROAM Class and valuable championship points.
Rob said of the weekend, “It was another strong weekend for Shaun and I, with the first race keeping us in the championship hunt, but not securing the title yet. There’s all to play for at the final round in Barcelona, so the pressure will be on, but I’m confident we can pull it off. The car performed well, we both drove to our limits and Balfe Motorsport pit crew were great as always. Roll on Spain for the finale.”
The final round of the International GT Open is at the end of October at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.