First Round Spoils to Rob Bell and Virgo Team
8th April 2008
Leading British sportscar driver, Rob Bell, driving alongside Gianmaria Bruni with the Virgo Motorsport team, celebrated victory in the first round of the Le Mans Series, piloting one of the team’s Ferrari 430 GT2 racers in Spain this weekend.
The fifth season of the Le Mans Series opened at the Catalunya circuit, close to Barcelona in Spain, with 28,000 spectators filling the grandstands to watch some of the best sportscar racing in Europe. With 46 cars competing in four different classes, the event was set for thrilling racing and it didn’t disappoint, with the No.96 Ferrari of Bell and Bruni featuring extensively in the drama.
The Bell-Bruni duo reigned supreme from the first session, topping the class time sheets from the start and continuing with this dominant pace throughout each track session, culminating in the class pole and class win. Nevertheless the win didn’t come easily to the Virgo Motorsport entry.
The team had worked hard to have the car ready for the first event, fitting the 2008 upgrade kit, including engine and fuel tank updates and with only minor technical problems in the first session, the car ran well in the lead up to the race.
Bell was behind the wheel for the first stint in the race, but within the first hour while leading the class he was tagged by one of the Aston Martins, pushing him off line and resulting in a puncture and a very slow return to the pits. Losing around 90 seconds, the battle for the team was on. Handing over to Bruni they began to claw their way back into podium contention, lying third by the end of the second hour of running and within the third hour the Ferrari was back in the lead. In the final hour there was further drama for the team with Bruni being hit by a Porsche, sending him into the gravel and with damage to the front splitter it was an unscheduled pitstop for repairs. Fortunately the team were able to retain the lead to take their first win of the season.
Bell said after the race, “It was a very good weekend for us. We didn’t expect to be quite so dominant, but it seems that the Dunlop rubber had the upperhand at this track. The tyres were exceptional and really kept us ahead. I don’t think that we’re going to have this level of advantage at out tracks, I think the Porsches will be stronger and I think Michelin will start to challenge us with their tyres. There’s definitely going to be a tight battle ahead, and I’ll look forward to it.”
Bell returns to racing action with CR Scuderia in the opening round of the FIA GT Championship, with the home event taking place at the Silverstone circuit in the UK from 18 – 20 April.