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Highs and lows for Rob Bell in Misano

2nd April 2017

The opening round of the Blancpain Sprint Series was held in Misano, Italy with McLaren Factory Driver, Rob Bell, and his teammate, McLaren Academy Driver, Andrew Watson, driving the #59 Strakka Racing McLaren 650S GT3. The duo were forced to retire from the qualifying race after being in fourth position and finished eighth in the main race.

The early sessions of the weekend were a chance for Andrew and Rob to familiarise themselves with the circuit and with 22 cars separated by less than a second in the practice sessions, the competitiveness of the series could not be underestimated.

The qualifying sessions were hard-fought with Rob in the thick of the action, battling comfortably in the top ten and finally recording fifth fastest lap for a third row grid slot in the Qualifying Race held later that evening.

The qualifying race, with a grid of 34 cars, started well with Rob up to fourth place after four laps, handing over the car to Andrew from this position for the second stint. He emerged from the pits in fifth place and was able to hold position as the final laps loomed. Just as the team looked home and dry for a strong finish, on the penultimate lap just as Andrew was making a superb move, diving down the inside of the fourth place car, a backmarker tangled with the #59 car and Andrew fell back to 18th at the chequered flag.

Starting on the ninth row of the grid for the main race, it was a huge challenge for the team to get into the points. Andrew took the start for the race and quickly started moving through the field, improving to ninth place before pitting. Rob was quickly back out on track and pushed on, with the McLaren 650S GT3 crossing the line in eighth place after 38 laps of hard racing.

Rob said after the weekend, “It was an up and down weekend for us. We had good race pace, but the results don’t show that in the qualifying race and it was a great shame that Andrew was taken out by a back marker, who really should have been heeding the blue flags and kept out of the way of the race leaders. We fared better in the second race, but starting so far back hampered our efforts to reach the podium. We have points on the board though, so it’s onwards and upwards for the next event.”

The Blancpain Sprint Series returns to racing action at Brands Hatch from 6-7th May.