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Rob Bell Previews His First Spa 24 Hours Race

30th July 2008

Leading British sportscar driver, Rob Bell, heads off to Spa, Belgium for this weekend’s 2008 Total 24 Hours of Spa. The fifth round of the FIA GT Championship, and the jewel in the crown of the series, is renowned as one of the biggest challenges for drivers and teams. Bell drives with regular team mate Andrew Kirkaldy in the CR Scuderia Ferrari No. 56 car and the duo will be joined by reigning FIA GT Championship GT2 Champion, Dirk Muller, for the event, with James Sutton as reserve driver.

Catching up with Bell ahead of the weekend, he gives his expectations for the forthcoming race weekend.

Q. Are you looking forward to another 24 hour challenge, after Le Mans?
Definitely. Twenty four hour races are the hardest, toughest races, but I really enjoy this challenge. Of course, I don’t want to have the heartbreak that I suffered with Virgo Motorsport at Le Mans, when we had to retire less than three hours from the finish having suffered engine failure.

It’s the ultimate test as a sportscar driver and this race is probably second only to Le Mans. It’s also my first time racing in the Spa 24 Hours, so that makes it more special and even more exciting for me.

We’ve been getting good results with the CR Scuderia Ferrari No. 56, so I reckon we’re in with a good chance of success in Spa. We have three drivers who are all potential winners on any day, so it’s a strong package that should be one of the front runners.

Q. How do you think it will differ from the Le Mans 24 hour race?
The French circuit, with its long straights gives you a little time to rest and is physically easier than Spa. Spa needs a higher degree of concentration for more time, and if it is hot that could make it difficult to triple stint during the night. Le Mans was cool during the day with some rain at night, so it wasn’t too bad, but there’s a strong chance it’ll be much hotter for Spa.

Q. Do you enjoy the challenge of the Spa Circuit?
Spa, with the classic Eau Rouge and Blanchimont sections, is one of the classic tracks that any racing driver wants to drive, so it’s always a pleasure to race there. I’ve been racing there for the last three or four years, so I know it fairly well. I won there in the Le Mans Series race a couple of months ago in a Ferrari, so that gives me confidence for this weekend as well.

Q. What are your expectations for the race?
I think we are there or thereabouts in terms of pace. In this sort of race I think you need a bit of luck, which has maybe been lacking this year, so that would also be welcome. We should be near a podium spot towards the end of the 24 hours and if we’re lucky, we’ll be on it.

Although it’s the debut for CR Scuderia at this Spa 24 Hours, the personnel have all done 24 hour races and we know the Ferrari can win, as we saw at Le Mans with the marque taking all three podium spots, so I think we have all the right ingredients to have a good showing.

We ran second quickest in the recent Spa test, although we were concentrating on set up work rather than outright speed, so again that gives me confidence for the race.

Q. How do you prepare for a race such as this?
It’s no different than a 2 hour or 6 hour race in that you need to be at the peak of fitness. I train around two hours each day, with specific focus on stamina as well as my neck and arms. The Spa race could be fairly hot, so I’ll try and train in the heat of the day to help this – not that we have many hot days in Britain!

At the race we have a trainer, so he’ll make sure I’m eating the right things at the right time, having enough rest as well as tending to any aches and pains I might have after being in the car for a stint. The challenge of this type of race is not only physical but mental as well, and you need to be focused and concentrating 100% of the time, especially with a track like Spa, where the driver works hard throughout the whole lap.

Q. How close will the competition be between Ferrari and Porsche?
In the Le Mans Series race at Spa in May the two manufacturers were very closely matched. The Virgo Motorsport Ferrari was 1/10th off the Porsche, so it’s neck and neck. The Ferrari has the edge through the corners, while the Porsche has the better straight line speed, so it’s going to be tight, I don’t think there’s anything to choose. The driver line ups are also very evenly matched, so with this and the similarity in pace, I think we’re in for a really good, clean, fight.

The 2008 Total 24 Hours of Spa kicks off on Thursday with daytime practice and evening qualifying. Final qualifying takes place on Friday afternoon, with the race starting at 4pm local time on Saturday.