A return to the podium for Rob Bell at British GT Silverstone headline event
8th May 2023
The #Silverstone500 event lived up to its headline status as the Intelligent Money British GT Championship, as the three-hour race delivered lights-to-flag action. Rob returned to the series for round 3 with Optimum Motorsport and Mark Radcliffe and, after heavily affected early sessions, they scored a hard-fought P3 finish. Their result, along with the efforts of their teammates and the whole Optimum Motorsport team, also helped claim the coveted ‘team of the weekend’ award.
Progress for the weekend was affected during the opening practice after a heavy incident for Mark which brought his session to an early end. The team called on their spare chassis and worked overtime to have the pair back out on track in time for the second practice session, which would prove to be important to the weekend. Running well, both drivers took part in the wet session, with Rob putting the #27 McLaren near the top of the timings.
With the rain continuing to fall, qualifying initially got underway but was quickly suspended with the first of two red flags. With the second stoppage caused by aquaplaning and a crash, it was then deemed that the track conditions were too wet to continue. With this decision, qualifying was abandoned, and the grid was set by the combined laptimes from the final free practice session. Rob and Mark’s times combined to see the #27 McLaren line up in P10.
After a damp morning warm up session, the race started in dry and sunny conditions with Mark taking the opening stint. The opening laps were completed without incident, and Mark made a strong start, making moves up the order. After two quick passes in as many laps, a third pass was made on lap 4 with a bold lunge to take P7, then holding position until a Safety Car and a tactical switch to Rob.
Taking to the track, Rob then followed suit and his opening stint saw further moves, as the Optimum Motorsport entry gained further ground over the bumper 43-car field. Reaching the 1-hour mark, Rob was still running firmly inside the top-10, handing back over to Mark for the middle section of the race. He made further inroads into the top-10, impressively passing the front row-sitting pair, on the same lap before another Safety Car was scrambled.
With Rob reinstated into the cockpit, the final stint got underway behind the Safety Car, setting up a sprint to the flag. When the action eventually recommenced, and with quick work by the Optimum team and a strong strategy, Rob had climbed the order to be within touching distance of the podium positions. He continued to push, lapping quicker than the leading pair, who were battling hard just ahead, allowing him to close the gap. A penalty for the third place car promoted Rob one further position, and the final chase and defence was on to the finish line.
As the third hour concluded, Rob successfully brought the 720S GT3 Evo home to score P3, and a return to the podium for the first time since his last full British GT campaign in 2019.
Commenting after the weekend’s podium result, Rob explained: “What an incredible turnaround of a weekend. Things were looking far from ideal on Saturday morning, but the team worked flat out to give us a chance, and a car, to keep our weekend on track. Mark drove brilliantly throughout the race, and really kept us in the fight during his two stints with some really impressive passes for position. It’s great to be back on the podium, especially at the Silverstone 500, and to have some solid points on the board for the championship.”