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Paul Ricard pace goes unrewarded for Bell and JOTA

6th June 2022

Rob Bell returned to the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS grid this weekend for the Paul Ricard 1,000kms event in France, and early pace looked strong for the #38 JOTA McLaren 720S GT3. After Rob made an impressive start to the six-hour race to move into the points-scoring positions as high as P8, an electrical issue brought an early end to the team’s efforts.

The green, red, and black McLaren looked in good shape throughout the early sessions of the latest Endurance Cup event at Circuit Paul Ricard, and Rob ran firmly in the top 10 ahead of the qualifying shootout. All three drivers then ran during the short sessions, with Marvin setting the initial benchmark showing top-10 performance, followed by Ollie and then Rob completing the programme. At the conclusion of the sessions, the trio combined for a P14 grid slot against a packed 54-car field.

Later that day, Rob took the start and would make an immediate impression, underlining the pace of the #38 McLaren. Rob continued to press and was involved in a multi-car battle on the opening lap, battling hard and gaining an impressive four positions before a short Safety Car intervention. He was immediately on the charge again as the track returned to green, making another clean pass on the restart. From here, the McLaren Factory Driver worked to find a way through, maintaining pressure on the lead group before making a further pass on Valentino Rossi in the WRT Audi up to P8 just before the 30-minute mark.

Having made significant progress in the opening half an hour, all signs looked positive for the JOTA team, and an opportunity to score some strong championship points. However, shortly after the race reached 30-minutes, Rob was forced to make an unscheduled visit to the pitlane with an electrical issue. Here, the team quickly set about working on the problem, and the McLaren was back out on track after 15 minutes with Ollie at the wheel. The pace seen earlier in the race was still clear but, with any hopes of a points-scoring result now unfortunately gone and the #38 running several laps down, the decision was taken to return to the garage and retire from the race.

“It’s really disappointing to have to retire after making such a strong start and moving up the order. We showed we had the pace across the different sessions, and I had made some good progress in the opening laps to go from P14 up to P8 in 30 minutes, so things were looking good. It was an electrical issue which meant I lost gears, but the team did a great job to get the car back out as quickly as they did. We managed to keep running with good pace, but unfortunately we were running several laps down and had no chance of making up the lost ground over the remainder of the race. A real shame for the team after all their hard work, but hopefully we can come back stronger for Zandvoort in a few weeks.”

The Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS season continues over the weekend 17-19 June with the next Sprint Cup event at Zandvoort, Netherlands.