Rob Bell takes positives from tough British GT race return
8th November 2020
Rob Bell made a one-off return to the Intelligent Money British GT Championship for the Silverstone 500 season finale, re-joining 2019 teammate Shaun Balfe at the wheel of the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3. However, the pair were forced to retire with a technical issue after showing strong pace during the championship’s headline event.
Rob and Shaun scored the first victory for the latest McLaren GT3 model during the championship decider last season, having run as the sole McLaren throughout the calendar. In stark contrast, this season’s final round saw the red and white Balfe entry as one of nine examples of the 720S GT3 lining up on the grid challenging for Pro-Am and Silver honours. Among the entries were four season regular entries, plus former Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button making his series debut.
The grid for the three-hour race was set using the now-familiar endurance qualifying procedure with the times from both drivers combined. Shaun’s quickest lap during the first session put him 8th, and Rob matched this in Q2. The combined laptimes put their #19 McLaren in 9th.
With Shaun taking the start for the Silverstone 500, the action commenced from the moment the 37-car grid crossed the start line. As the combined GT3, GT4 and, new for this weekend, GTC runners hustled for track position, but heavy contact within the opening laps brought out the Safety Car. Taking the opportunity, the Balfe Motorsport brought Shaun in to switch for Rob and completed one of the three mandatory pitstops without losing time.
As the pitstops played out across the field, Rob was running just outside the top-10 but quick race pace saw progress made. Within a handful of laps, he had made the move up to 10th and closing the gap to the group ahead. Rob continued to post quick laptimes and made further inroads to the leaders, moving up to 7th just before the hour mark. It was at this point that Rob was forced to make an unscheduled pitstop with a puncture, and the slow lap back saw much of his hard work undone. With new tyres fitted and a change of strategy, Shaun returned to the track now running in 17th but an electrical issue meant a final return to the pitlane and a premature end to their efforts.
Rob Bell –
“It was so good to be back on the British GT grid racing with Shaun again. The Silverstone 500 is always a great race to be a part of, but this year’s grid was the best I’ve ever been part of. It would have been great to come away with a result, but it wasn’t to be. The puncture came out of nowhere, and then the technical issue meant we couldn’t continue but, up to that point, we had good pace and the team had done a faultless job all weekend.
It was amazing to see 20 GT3s on the grid, especially after the year we have had, and I was also really proud to see nearly half of them being the 720S GT3. It is slightly different to where we were last year being the sole McLaren entry in the championship, but the car has really proved itself with all types of driver over this past year and looking forward to competing against a few more as more teams join the programme.”