19 September, 2017
Rob Bell enjoyed a top ten finish at the final round of the Blancpain Sprint Series in Nurburgring, Germany, with Rob and his team mate, Andrew Watson, piloting the #59 Strakka Racing McLaren 650S GT3 to a ninth place finish in the main race, after taking a front row grid slot for the qualifying race.
The weekend’s practice sessions saw the duo show marked improvement on previous rounds of the Series, with Rob putting in third fastest lap in the second of the two practice sessions.
Andrew was behind the wheel for the first qualifying session and with a damp track, the times tumbled as the session progressed. A great effort from the young Brit put the #59 car on provisional pole. Rob took over for the second session and with a drier track times were more competitive, but with two red flag interruptions it was also a challenge to fit in a hot lap, with Rob finishing ninth quickest and through to Q3 for the Super Pole by the end of the session. Rob continued to pilot the Strakka Racing McLaren for the shoot out and put in a blistering lap to qualify on the front row, just 0.122 seconds behind the pole sitter.
Lining up on the front of the grid for the qualifying race, Rob was in the drivers seat, taking the rolling start, but was punted from behind as the field funnelled through Turn 1, damaging the rear of the car and dropping the McLaren to fifth. Two laps later a safety car period paced the cars while cars were removed from an incident that left two cars, including the sister #58 Strakka Racing McLaren, stranded in the gravel. Racing resumed after a few laps, but Rob had been forced to pit for damage repairs, putting him at the back of the field. He made his way forward for the remainder of his stint, handing the car over to Andrew from 23rd place. Andrew continued to push on for the second half of the race, finally crossing the line in 16th position.
The #59 car lined up on the eighth row of the grid for the start of the main race with Andrew behind the wheel. He held position through the first half of the race and then handing over the McLaren to Rob. The experienced Brit was soon moving up through the field, moving into the top ten after just 10 minutes of his stint, finally crossing the line in ninth place.
Rob said of the weekend, “There was a marked improvement in our pace and performance, which was great, but having qualified on the front row, it was a shame I wasn’t able to translate this into a podium. I got hit from behind in the first corner and after struggling with rear end damage, I had to pit, and I knew it was game over for any chance of a podium then. It also put us well down the order for the start of the main race.
“The main race showed that we have the pace and I was able to race hard, but having started in 16th, it was as much as we could do to finish in the top ten. It was great to have the car underneath me that could race competitively and felt well balanced and nimble. It was very encouraging and a very productive weekend.”
Rob will be back out on track in two weeks time and looking forward to another week of hard and fast racing.