Tough 24 Hours at Spa for Rob Bell
5th August 2008
Rob Bell had a predictably tough Spa 24 Hours race at the Spa track in Belgium at the weekend, competing in the FIA GT Championship. Bell was driving for the CR Scuderia team, in the team’s first ever 24 hour race alongside team mates Andrew Kirkaldy, Dirk Muller and reserve driver, James Sutton. It was a gruelling day and night of racing, with the car running in the lead in the GT2 category at one point, but after a rare mistake by Bell which cost the team in the pits for repairs, the no.56 Ferrari F430 eventually crossed the line in sixth place.
During the build up for the race the no.56 CR Scuderia car showed good pace at the hands of all four of the team’s drivers. The Spa Circuit is notoriously challenging for both the car and driver due to its fast, hilly and twisty nature, but remains a firm driver’s favourite with the challenge the circuit offers. The CR Scuderia car ran trouble free during the two night-time qualifying sessions, and it was ultimately Bell who set the lap which placed the car fourth on the grid in the GT2 class.
At 16:00 on Saturday Kirkaldy started the Spa 24 hour race for the CR Scuderia team. During the opening hours a slight drama occurred whilst Kirkaldy was overtaking the sister CR Scuderia as they clashed and the no.56 Ferrari of Kirkaldy pitted early to ensure there was no significant damage. Dirk Muller then took the wheel and after taking on fuel and tyres and being given a clean bill of health for the car, he was able to take the lead in the GT2 category. The unpredictable weather saw the team pit for intermediate tyres as the rain began to fall heavily during Saturday evening, however the downpour didn’t last long and Muller was soon back in the pits to hand over to Rob Bell, who went back out on track with slick tyres, running in fifth place.
The weather continued to keep the teams guessing as the day turned into night, Bell commented after his turn in the car, “That was a difficult stint. It was dry for the first few laps, then drizzle, then rain, then dry. Luckily I didn’t have any dramas though and handed back to Dirk (Muller) whilst running in fourth place.”
As the night drew in Kirkaldy was back in the no.56 car, and during his stint he pitted from fifth place. Midnight approached when Bell returned to the driving seat, but again it wasn’t an easy stint as the rain started to fall heavily. In the difficult conditions and whilst running in fourth place, Bell suffered misfortune when he put a wheel on the kerb at the exit of Les Combes, sending the car into oversteer and spinning round, clipping the barrier, which caused some bodywork damage, but also put a hole in the radiator. A lengthy pitstop was needed to repair the damage, but the CR Scuderia squad worked quickly and the car, with Kirkaldy behind the wheel, was back out on track.
Bell says of his ‘off’, “I messed up. It was the first time that I’ve made a mistake that lost us so much time, but it was just a really unfortunate mistake.”
As morning approached and after several hours of rest, Bell was back out on track, and after a trouble free double stint, the car was back up to seventh place. He handed over to Kirkaldy and Muller for the early hours of the morning before retaking the wheel for his final stint of the race just after lunch time at the Belgian track. After another trouble free double stint for Rob Bell, Kirkaldy took the car to the chequered flag in sixth position.
Bell commented after the race, “The CR Scuderia team were excellent this weekend, with first class preparation and great reliability. We had a quick car which could have been on the podium, but it was just a small error from me that dropped us back after losing a big chunk of time. The team was one of only two to have both cars finish, and I think that proves what a top outfit they are; it was a great achievement.”