British driver Rob Bell scored another podium finish in the FIA GT Championship this weekend, at the Oschersleben track in Germany. Bell, who was once again driving for the CR Scuderia team alongside Andrew Kirkaldy in the Ferrari GT2 F430, finished third after a challenging weekend for the team. As the team took to the track for the for the first practice session of the weekend, Bell and Kirkaldy found good pace in the car and ended the session fourth in class.
During the second practice session, Bell and Kirkaldy were working on longer runs in the car focusing on the tyre wear and race set up. The car was running well on old rubber until an incident with Kirkaldy behind the wheel put a premature end to their session. This incident heavily damaged the right rear of the car putting them out of the session and losing valuable track time.
The team worked long into the night to ready the car for qualifying, placing them on the back foot ahead of the weekend. After the very busy evening for the team, a new day began at Oschersleben with warm but overcast skies and the two fifteen minute qualifying sessions for the FIA GT’s was soon underway. The track time during the session was practically halved after a fluid spillage made it too slippery to carry on, however Kirkaldy managed to post a fifth fastest time before the end of the session, giving the CR Scuderia a good position on the grid for the race the following day.
Sunday’s race began with Bell behind the wheel of the CR Scuderia Ferrari. He made a strong start, maintaining his fifth place and as the race settled in to a rhythm, he began to chase down Richard Westbrook’s Porsche. Bell duly passed the Porsche and moved up into fourth position and was showing very quick pace in the Ferrari. As Bell came in to the pits and handed over to Kirkaldy they were running in third.
Bell’s team mate kept up the pace, with a clean stint to maintain position. With 30 minutes of the race still to run, the safety car was deployed and Kirkaldy used the opportunity to pit and hand over the Ferrari to Bell. After the safety car period, the field of cars were tightly bunched up, and with Bell’s apparent pace in the car, it looked promising that they could finish higher than the third place they were running in.
However a lapped AF Course Ferrari was sandwiched between Bell and its sister AF Course Ferrari, who Bell was fighting for second place. A lack of blue flags denied Bell the opportunity to pass the lapped car and fight for second place, so Bell consolidated his third place sand bought home a strong podium finish for the team.
Bell commented after the race, "It was quite a fraught weekend for us. We were playing catch-up after the incident on Friday, because we had less track time than we would have liked. It is testament to the team that we could finish on the podium this weekend, because without their long hours of hard work we couldn’t have got this result.
"The race was hard but good, the car was handling well and we have to be pleased that we got another podium. We are a new team in the championship and we have a lack of data for the circuits, which is why the practice sessions are really important to us. We are positive for the next round though and the Spa 24 hours should be a great challenge for us as a team."
The next race for Rob Bell will be at the Spa track in Belgium for the Spa 24 hours and ahead of this he will test with the team at the track.
He will once again be racing in the FIA GT’s with the CR Scuderia Team in the Ferrari F340.
- Alison Hill- photo DPPI
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