Victory for Rob Bell in Spa
12th May 2008
Rob Bell scored a superb victory this weekend in the third round of the 2008 Le Mans Series at the renowned Spa Circuit in Belgium. Bell and team mate Gianmaria Bruni in the Virgo Motorsport no.96 Ferrari 430 GT2 fought hard for their class win, crossing the line only a tenth of a second ahead of the chasing Porsche.
With a 35,000 strong crowd watching under the warm Belgian sun, Bell and the Virgo Motorsport Team started the 1000km race from pole in the GT2 category. Bell made a clean start to the race and as the first hour progressed he managed to pull away by nearly seven seconds from the leading Porsche in second place. As the first round of pit stops approached, Bell pitted from the lead and handed over to team mate Bruni, after which the lead gradually increased to nearly 15 seconds.
The charge by the Virgo Ferrari was halted during the middle stint of the race, as a series of safety car periods eliminated the advantage the no.96 had pulled out. As Bell got back in the car, he pushed hard and created a superb 35 second advantage over the leading Porsche, still behind in second place. Unfortunately the no.4 Saulnier Racing Pescarolo hit the back of the Virgo Ferrari car at the bus stop and spun it round, causing substantial damage to the handling of the car. The advantage evaporated with Bell losing nearly 20 seconds from the incident. Virgo’s main rival, the Porsche of Marc Lieb and Alex Davison chased him down to within a tenth of a second, but a tenacious drive from Bell ensured he maintained his position until the chequered flag.
Bell commented, “The race was really tough, it was a really close battle between us and the Porsches today, but we came out on top. Our car was really well balanced and nimble in the tight and twisty corners, but the Porsches were faster in a straight line, so we were very evenly matched in the different sections of the Spa Circuit. That made it all the more challenging for us, and we had to work hard to keep ahead of them.
“The safety car periods added to the pressure, as it made it difficult for us to sustain the margin we had built up. Towards the end of the race we were conserving fuel, so we couldn’t use the full power of the engine; it added to the excitement, but was a bit nail-biting for us. . After the incident with the Pescarolo the car was a bit of a handful to drive, so I was pleased to be able to reach the chequered flag to score another victory for the team.
“Overall we had some pretty hairy moments today, but we started on pole and finished with a win, so we’re really pleased with the weekend’s results. Winning by a tenth demonstrates how tough and close the race was, and how hard we’ll need to fight at the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
Rob Bell will be in action once again in just under a week, racing with the CR Scuderia team in the FIA GT Championship at the Monza Circuit in Italy.