Rob Bell helps secure best-ever result at 24 Hours of Spa
2nd August 2021
Rob Bell and the JOTA team claimed the best result of the Fanatec GT world Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup season so far with an impressive 7th-place finish at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. Racing alongside fellow Factory Drivers Ben Barnicoat and Oliver Wilkinson, the trio delivered strong performances during every stage of the weekend to score important points to reignite their championship effort. The result with the #38 720S GT3 also marked the best result at the championship’s blue riband event for McLaren.
With red flags affecting his qualifying run, Rob was limited to one timed effort to then be combined with the best times set by both Ben and Oliver during their sessions. Despite the lack of track time, the average of these times secured a place in the top-20 Superpole shootout where Ben qualified on the third row, highlighting the raw pace of the JOTA-run McLaren.
The race strategy saw Rob take over following an incident-filled opening stint which had extended Full Course Yellow periods combined with extreme wet weather. With the team running in 2nd, Rob was immediately engaged in close battles at the sharp end of the field, battling hard and challenging the race-leader. Backmarkers would hinder progress slightly, but Rob remained focused on running his own race throughout, and the #38 was well-placed with each passing stint. With points awarded at six-, 12- and 24-hours, the team worked to optimise the strategy and were well-placed at each of these stages. The results have secured valuable championship points, helping to reignite the drive for the second half of the season.
The team was unlucky to stop on three occasions during green running which was almost immediately followed by a Full Course Yellow. This saw the leaders then benefitting from stopping when the racing speeds were reduced. Despite this setback, each stint saw Rob deliver consistently strong laptimes to keep the pressure on the race leading group.
With a different strategy in play to those around them, the position of red and green McLaren on the timesheets fluctuated, but it was still firmly pushing for a points-paying position as the sun rose over the Ardennes Forest for the second half of the twice-around-the-clock event. With the field now more drawn out, the team worked to close the gap ahead, bringing a top-8 finish within reach as Rob completed his final stint.
A heavy rainstorm had been threatening for some time, but when it arrived with almost immediate effect with less than one hour remaining, the already action-packed event took another dramatic and chaotic final twist. As teams and drivers battled to return to the pitlane, the JOTA team worked quickly to fit wet tyres to set up a sprint finish as the rain continued to fall. The conditions saw a final safety car intervention, bringing the field back together and enabling one last effort to fight for position. With less than 15 minutes remaining, the efforts were rewarded, and the JOTA team celebrated a 7th place finish at the flag.
“The 24 Hours of Spa is always full of surprises, and this year was no different, but we had a great package, the car setup was strong, and the whole team did a great job all weekend. It can be a real car-killer, and the rate of attrition this year goes to show just how hard the race can be. We had a plan, stayed focused, and were consistent which meant we were there to fight at each of the key points, and we have scored some important championship points.
“I am delighted with the result. The car was fantastic throughout and the team didn’t miss a beat. It was nice to show that the 720S GT3 can be so competitive at the highest level”