Disappointing Spa 24 Hours for Rob Bell
1st August 2016
McLaren GT factory driver, Rob Bell, had a tough weekend at the Total 24 Hours of Spa, with a 31st place finish for the #58 Garage 59 team’s McLaren 650S GT3. The car ran as high as second place and was consistently in the top ten during the first half of the race, but damage from a track incident and unlucky timing of a pitstop during a safety car period, put the car a few laps down. Despite the disappointing finish position, Rob retains the lead of the Blancpain GT Series Drivers standing.
Rob rejoined his regular Blancpain Endurance Series team mates, Come Ledogar and Shane Van Gisbergen for the 2016 Total 24 Hours of Spa earlier last week and after the traditional drivers parade, with the grid of 65 cars driving to the Spa town centre, it was on to the track action. The #58 Garage 59 McLaren was one of the front-running cars during the practice and qualifying sessions, topping the timesheets in the night qualifying session putting the car through to Super Pole, a top 20 cars shoot out to set the final grid for the race. Unfortunately a mechanical issue sidelined the car at the start of the session, so no time was set and the #58 was set to start in 20th place. However, technical infringement penalties for the Mercedes cars promoted the McLaren to 12th on the grid.
Come Ladogar took the start in the #58 car and held position through the first hour, with Rob taking over for the second stint. Over the course of the early houurs of the race the trio of experienced drivers kept the car in contention, but unlucky timing of a pitstop within a safety car period put the car a lap down. However, a strong pace saw the car claw back into the top ten, until an on-track incident in the early hours of the morning forced an unscheduled pitstop and accident damage repairs. With the #58 car remaining in the pits for around 17 minutes it had dropped towards the back of the field on returning to the race. The team battled on and after 24 hours were in 31st place.
Rob said of the race, “It was tough out there this year. With over 60 cars, all in the same category, it was a very competitive track, it was my eighth time racing in the Spa 24 and I don’t think I’ve ever known it to be so busy. The car was good and we had the pace, but as with all long-distance races, there are always other factors which come into play. We were unlucky to get so much damage after quite a small incident and to lose a lap with the way the safety car and pitstops played out. It was a case of what could have been, but for us, it wasn’t our day. As always there are positives we take away, and for me, I’m still leading the GT Series standings and with Come and Shane, we’re leading the Endurance Cup standings, although it’s a slender 2 point lead. We can only look ahead to the next round now.”
Rob returns to the race track next weekend, with a trip to Snetterton for the British GT Championship that he’s contesting with the Ecurie Ecoss Black Bull team.