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Bell (Scuderia Corsa): “It Will Be Another Baptism by Fire”

Townsend Bell recaps a whirlwind spring as he preps for 24H Le Mans debut…

Photo: Scuderia Corsa

Photo: Scuderia Corsa

Scuderia Corsa’s Townsend Bell heads into the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic this weekend in the midst of a crazy month of May, which will only intensify immediately after the checkered flag drops on Saturday.

Bell just completed his ninth Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, where he finished 14th for Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing.

This weekend, he’ll resume back in Scuderia Corsa’s No. 63 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 with Bill Sweedler. The team won in Detroit last year with Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Westphal, while the Bell/Sweedler AIM Autosport Ferrari finished eighth.

And then straight after the race, the pair of drivers will board a charter to Paris before they shift to the GTE-Am class No. 62 Ferrari F458 Italia they’ll test on Sunday for the Le Mans test day.

“We’ve known this was coming for quite some time now, so we have things well-planned out,” Bell told Sportscar365 of the logistical planning involved.

“I’m lucky Dreyer & Reinbold is at the top of their game on all the details. Then my Ferrari team has been working hard on all the Le Mans details. And now we have the Detroit Grand Prix with the Ferrari TUDOR program.

“So anytime I feel like a sprint car driver, racing 70 times a year, or at least at that frequency, it’s a good thing.”

It’s been a busy two-month period for Bell since Easter weekend, the first weekend of April, which marked his last off weekend.

Prior to the NOLA Motorsports Park IndyCar round on April 12, where Bell served as an NBC Sports Network color commentator, Bell made a voyage to France for simulator testing in Paris.

Bell was impressed with his maiden Le Mans simulator experience.

“The ACO now mandates that any first-time driver to Le Mans goes over for a simulator session,” he explained. “It’s a long way to fly to play a video game, but it’s mandatory, so you have to be there.

“And in the end, all joking aside, I thought it was pretty useful. They take you through the ACO and Le Mans-specific regulations… the [slow] zones, concept of not having a safety car but an enforced speed rule through those zones. Three pace cars dispatched at different points around the track.

“I’m obviously learning the track. It’s a laser, pixel-perfect track scan. You’re just understanding all the nuances of driving Le Mans.

“I spent the whole day there so I did about seven different sessions throughout the day, and I hope that will be useful when we come back.”

After he returned to the U.S., Bell did three IndyCar weekends in a row at NOLA, Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park, before returning to his TUDOR Championship Ferrari at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Then this month, he’s been in the car every day at the Indianapolis 500.

Along with Ryan Briscoe, who got a last-minute nod to replace the injured James Hinchcliffe, Briscoe and Bell will be the two drivers who race in both the Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans this year.

Bell has been to Le Mans before but he’s not underestimating the challenge of his maiden voyage in June’s endurance classic.

“I have been to Le Mans before to watch practice and the test day, a few years ago,” he said. “So I have a feel for the environment and the layout.

“But that race is like no other, so it will be another baptism by fire for me.”

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) is Sportscar365's North American Editor, focusing on coverage of the IMSA-sanctioned championships as well as Pirelli World Challenge. DiZinno also contributes to and other motorsports outlets. Contact Tony


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