Strong progress made by Rob Bell with JOTA at Brands Hatch
2nd May 2022
It was a return to racing on homesoil for the first time in two years for Rob Bell as the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS arrived at Brands Hatch. The race weekend kicked off the 2022 Sprint Cup competition, as Rob and his JOTA teammate Ollie Wilkinson worked hard across the two 1-hour races to gain significant positions and claim a double top-10 finish in class.
The team arrived at the circuit having shown race-winning pace at the same event last year. However, with a recently resurfaced circuit and new tyres, the opening sessions saw Rob and Ollie working through set up changes to optimise the performance of the McLaren 720S GT3. Qualifying showed improving pace, but the outright performance was not quite where the Pro pairing expected across the two sessions, which were both cut short by incidents which brought out red flags.
The rolling start of race 1 was quickly brought under the control of the Safety Car after a multi-car incident at Paddock Hill Bend. Ollie avoided the chaos and capitalised on the opportunity, gaining several places to move up into the top-10. The extended caution period saw the order shake itself out, and Ollie made a solid restart, immediately gaining a further position within a lap. As the pit window opened just before middle-distance, Rob took over with the #38 Jota entry running well in P9 within the Pro class. A well-executed stop by the JOTA pitcrew saw Rob quickly dispatched and back out on track.
Rob was immediately engaged in the battle to continue progress up the field and, as the order settled over the duration of the pit window, Rob was holding P8 in class. The remaining stint saw Rob defending hard, while closing the gap ahead. At the line, he was still fighting hard for position, finishing P8 in Pro class, P12 overall with the green, red, and black McLaren having gained an impressive nine positions after 60 minutes.
Colder conditions for the beginning of race 2 saw two warm-up laps before the rolling start, but it would be the only time the Safety Car would be seen during another action-packed hour sprint. Starting from P16, Rob wasted no time in continuing the recovery that had been seen in the earlier event. Gaining two positions in as many laps, the McLaren Factory Driver continued to push against a world-class field and kept the fight going until the pit window opened. As he brought his stint to a close, Rob had gained a further position, handing over to Ollie for the final run of the weekend. The closing laps would see the #38 McLaren battling hard, and further contact by the lead group would offer a final position change as Ollie, once again, negotiated the caution and safely brought the car home to earn all-important Pro class points for a P8 finish, P11 overall.
“It is great to be back racing at Brands Hatch, and we made good progress over the two hours. We couldn’t quite get the best out of everything during the qualifying sessions, but we knew the pace was there and JOTA have given us a strong car. It was a real positive for Ollie and I to move forwards in both races, and we gained a good number of positions with our race pace and strategy which shows we are moving in the right direction. We still have some time to find, but we know the areas we need to work on, and it feels like we are getting stronger with each event.”
The Sprint Cup continues in two weeks as the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS heads to Magny-Cours for the first of two back-to-back French races. The Magny-Cours event takes place 13-15 May.