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Rob Bell Enjoys ALMS Experience

11th August 2008

British driver Rob Bell had his first taste of one of the classic American race tracks this weekend, joining the Risi Competizione team in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at Road America, Elkhart Lake. Bell, who was driving in place of the injured Patrick Friesacher, and alongside team mate Harrison Brix in a Ferrari F430, finished the race in a creditable sixth in the GT2 class after starting from the back of the grid and fighting through the traffic.

Bell starring in only his second ALMS event was immediately on the pace in the Ferrari F430. Even on old tyres during practice Bell was quickly up to speed, showing his wealth of experience. It was Bell’s team mate, Brix, who went out during qualifying to set the team’s flying lap, however an off track excursion left the team down the order. During the incident the Ferrari’s tyres were damaged, and after inspection needed to be replaced, which incurred a penalty for the team, as they were forced to start the race from the very back of the grid.

The lights went green under the warm sun at the Wisconsin Circuit, Bell who was in the car for the first stint of the race made a good start off the line and stayed out of trouble at the back of the pack. During the early stages of the race Bell fought hard to get past the slower cars, but with some having a quicker straight line speed, the leading pack was able to pull away. After only a few laps of racing, the lead Audi lapped Bell, just before a safety car was deployed, pushing him a lap down on the other GT2 cars. After the first hour Bell was turning in some of the quickest GT2 lap times, only marginally slower than his more experienced team mate Jaime Melo in the sister Risi Competizione car. In a race littered with full course caution periods, the No. 61 Ferrari struggled to recover from the early set back, but managed to use Bell’s blistering pace, to bring the car home sixth in class.

Bell commented about the race, “I don’t feel the result reflects what we could have achieved during the race. Having to get through the traffic during the early stages and then the safety car coming out when it did ruined our chances early on. I think our pace shows we could have run at the front as I was running similar lap times to our sister Ferrari which was leading the GT2 category until the last lap. However, we did the best we could under the circumstances and it was good to finish in sixth.

“I enjoyed my first visit to the Road America Circuit. The track is really bumpy and there are plenty of surface changes. I think American tracks in general have this characteristic, and because of this the car setup is fairly different, so it took me a little time to adapt to the handling of the car. I had a really good weekend with the team, and have really enjoyed racing with them. Now I’m looking forward to being back at Detroit and building on this experience.”

There’s no rest for Bell now as he goes straight to Germany this weekend for the penultimate round of the Le Mans Series at the legendary Nurburgring Circuit. Bell will be back in familiar surroundings with the Virgo Motorsport team who also run a Ferrari F430. The last time he ran with the team was at the Le Mans 24 Hour race way back in June.