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Rob Bell Inches Closer to Le Mans Podium

15th June 2009

British racing driver Rob Bell completed his third successive Le Mans 24 hour race over the weekend, with a strong race to fourth place. Driving in the JMW Motorsport Ferrari F430, the Newcastle driver and co drivers Tim Sugden and Andrew Kirkaldy spent the majority of the endurance race in a strong podium position in the GT2 class. With six hours remaining of the race the team looked set to finish second, but small mechanical issues cost the team their podium glory.

Bell commented about Le Mans, “The result over the weekend is great in that we brought the car home and proved we were quick. However we still all feel a bit gutted not to have been on the podium. Finishing in fourth is so close and when you spend nearly two thirds of the race in second place, you are really hoping that’s where you’ll finish.

“We were really quick, all three drivers were totally on it and the Dunlop tyres were performing really well, but we suffered from mechanical issues about 18 hours into the race”, says Bell.

Whilst running in second place on Sunday morning, Bell suffered with a clutch problem which left him stuck in sixth gear and heading into the fourth gear Porsche Curve. Bell had no option but to take a trip onto the old part of the circuit. Bell explained, “Luckily there was a run off area. If there had been a barrier it could’ve been much worse, and we could have potentially ended our race there, It did cost us second place though, which was difficult to accept.”

“After this I took the car back to the pits for repairs, which is when we dropped to fourth place. We got the car back out and Andrew took over the driving, but after only a couple of laps the clutch problems were back, so we just had to race on and nurse the gearbox.”

Kirkaldy held fourth position, handing over to Sugden after a double stint. Sugden was able to move the JMW Motorsport team back up into third, but Sugden then suffered with a broken suspension in the last chicane, and having just missed the pit entrance, he was forced to tour the Le Mans Circuit at low speed before being able to pit for repairs. The team were quick to make the repairs but with a slow lap and an unplanned pitstop they were back down to fourth place, which they held until the end of the race.

Bell added, “We were the quickest Ferrari on lap time and we were able to comfortably double stint. We are going forward, so it’s encouraging, but two small things cost us a podium. After the disappointment of last year and the DNF, and the year prior when I finished fifth, it’s good to have completed the race with my best finish position, so maybe next time it can be the podium. Finishing is an achievement in itself, but I feel we deserved to finish second. It’s tough when you have a podium snatched away when you’ve been chasing it for 18 hours, but that’s Le Mans and we know what we are capable of for next year’s race.”

Bell will return to the track this weekend as he returns to the cockpit of the CRS Ferrari F430 in the FIA GT Championship. Bell will be driving alongside his Le Mans compatriot Andrew Kirkaldy in the race which takes place at the Oschersleben Circuit, Germany.