Monza Misfortune for Rob Bell
28th April 2008
Rob Bell and the Virgo Motorsport team completed the second round of the 2008 Le Mans Series in Monza, Italy on Sunday. After taking a superb pole position during qualifying on Saturday, a series of punctures during the race caused the no.96 Ferrari 430 GT2 to retire whilst running in a strong fourth place with Bell’s team mate Gianmaria Bruni at the wheel.
The weekend got off to a good start with Bell putting the Virgo Motorsport Ferrari on pole during the qualifying session. Bell commented after qualifying, “We were on the podium here last year and its great to be back to try to reward those who have supported us since then. The car and the tyres were pretty good in the session and we’ve come out of it in the best possible position.”
Bell was in the car for the first stint of Sunday’s race and after a clean start, Bell began to pull away from the rest of the GT2 pack, gaining a 20 second lead over Kaffer in the F430 and Lietz in the Porsche. However after a routine stop the Virgo Ferrari suffered a left rear puncture as Bell headed into Ascari. Bell managed to get the car back to the pits, where the team changed the deflated tyre and Bell’s team mate Bruni took the wheel.
As Bruni took to the track the left rear once again suffered a puncture, requiring another unscheduled stop for the Virgo team. As Bruni rejoined the track he was almost two laps down on the GT2 class leader, but never one to give up the chase he soon started putting in quick lap times, moving the Ferrari up into fourth place in class. The fast recovery of the no.96 Ferrari was halted after an uncharacteristic third puncture on the left rear tyre, causing substantial bodywork damage to the car and forcing the team to retire from the race.
Commenting after the weekend, Bell commented, “We had a strong weekend up until we suffered the punctures. We don’t know why it happened, but I know there was a fair bit of debris on the track. We also had bodywork damage that might have caused it. It was a shame we didn’t reach the end; our car was well balanced and felt good, and with the setup being similar for the Le Mans 24 hours, there’s positives that we can take away with us.
“We took pole position and the fastest lap of the race in GT2, so we know we are quick, however the opposition were strong this weekend. Luckily, the lead Porsche (No.77) failed to finish too, so we’ve still got all to play for in the championship.”
Rob Bell and Virgo Motorsport are now lying 3rd in the drivers and team championship, only three points adrift of the lead. The next round of the Le Mans Series will be in two weeks time at the Spa Circuit in Belgium on the 10th and 11th May.