Bell Finishes Second in Spa Le Mans Series Race
5th September 2007
Rob Bell and team mate Allan Simonsen driving the Virgo Motorsport, Ferrari F430 no.96 entry, finished an impressive second in last weekend’s Spa 1000KM, keeping the team leading the Championship in the GT2 category of the Le Mans Series.
It was a two car battle at the head of the GT2 category at the Belgian circuit, with the top spot being fought between the Ferrari of no.96 Virgo Motorsport and the Porsche of No.77 Felbermayr Proton. The fight started during qualifying when the No.77 Porsche grabbed pole with a 2:21.525 second lap slightly ahead of the no.96 Ferrari with a time of 2.22.065.
Bell started the race for Virgo Motorsport and kept it clean through the first corner, from there he kept the pace consistent behind the Porsche, keeping the gap down and the pressure on. During the first round of pit stops, a safety car period played into the hands of Bell and the Virgo Motorsport team as they came out in front. They pitted at the same time as the Felbermayr Porsche team, during which time Bell handed the car over to team mate Allan Simonsen. After the swift driver change they managed to gain 3 seconds on the chasing Porsche and came out of the pit stops leading the GT2 category.
During Bell’s next stint in the car, whilst still leading the category, the Ferrari and the Porsche traded fast laps, Lieb in the Porsche set a 2:25 against Bell’s 2:27, continuing the promise of a good battle in the GT2 category, Bell then extended his lead, before both drivers settled into a steady pace of 2:25.
Another incident during the mid-way part of the race bought out the safety car again, and Virgo motorsport team used this time to take a pit stop during the caution period. Bell having just got out of the car at three and a half hours commented “We must have gained the two minutes under the safety car. The no.77 Porsche pitted a bit later than us, again the pit stops worked out and we managed to stay out in front.”
Unfortunately the next safety car period played into the hands of the rival Porsche team as they managed to close the one lap deficit bringing them right up behind the Virgo Motorsport car as the rain began to fall.
Bringing the two leading GT2 cars together resumed the on track battle for the lead, the Virgo Motorsport car and and the Falbermayr Porsche were dicing wheel to wheel in the rain round the back, on slicks – but the Virgo team called the Ferrari F430 in for wets, as Pompidou in the Porsche stayed out on slicks. The rain stopped and suddenly the advantage swung to no.77 as the extra stop brought the Virgo team out behind the no.77 Porsche.
The Virgo car stayed out on its wets, with the gap increasing to two minutes as Virgo decided to hold out on wets, meaning they only had to stop once more before the end of the race. As the chequered flag fell, the Virgo Motorsport team crossed the line in second place in the GT2 class, behind the no.77 Felbermayr Proton Porsche.
Bell reflected on the race: “We’re a bit disappointed, we were in a position to win, but we made an error changing to wets when we did. The pit stops were all excellent though, and the car was handling well in both the wet and dry conditions. If we can keep up this performance level, we can win wherever we go.
“The next race is at Silverstone, and even though it’s my home race I’ve never driven on the full GP track, so it’ll be a fresh challenge for me. I still think that we go there with a very good chance of winning and increasing our lead in the championship.”
The Virgo Motorsport pair lead the GT2 Championship, but the five point lead before Spa (24 - 19) is now down to just three (32 - 29), heading into the next round at Silverstone in Northamptonshire on 15th/16th of September. This is then followed by the final round of the series in Brazil on 10th/11th November.