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Bell (McLaren GT): “The Pitstop is as Important as the Driver”

Rob Bell confident of improvements with McLaren 650S GT3 in BSS…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency/SRO

Photo: Vision Sport Agency/SRO

The McLaren 650S GT3 didn’t enjoy an easy start of the season in the Blancpain GT Series, but the potential is there and progress is on its way, according to Rob Bell.

Besides Von Ryan Racing launching a two-car Pro Cup Blancpain Endurance Series attack with an all factory lineup, Attempto Racing is also fielding two 650S GT3s, with Kevin Estre and Bell sharing a car in the Sprint Series.

“The team are used to Porsches. It takes a little time to adjust to a new car, really,” Bell told Sportscar365 at Brands Hatch.

Bell stressed the important of a smooth pitstop in the highly competitive one-hour races, with the team still losing a lot of time to the series’ regulars.

“To be honest, the pitstop is as important as the driver, because if you lose 10 seconds in the pit you’re never going to find it on track against other factory drivers.

“Attempto is also new to the championship and the mechanics have never ever done a pitstop, so there’s a lot to be gained there as well.”

While the team didn’t manage to score a top-10 finish at the Nogaro season opener, things are on the up here at Brands, with Estre and Bell finishing fifth in this morning’s Qualifying Race.

“Everyone looks on the limit and certainly here, there’s a Bentley broken, an Audi broken and other cars in the gravel.

“I think the problem with this series is that you’re on old tires [from the previous event] from the start. So effectively we test on worn out tires and only later on we use new ones.

“So it may look like the car is a bit of a handful sometimes, but actually there are a lot of cars going off and I think it has a little bit to do with the tire allocation.

“I understand it’s to save money, but I don’t agree with it.”

Despite Estre and Bell being a feared duo in the Sprint Series and the six factory drivers sharing two cars in the endurance races, the 36-year-old Brit is not really aiming for a title this season.

“My goal is one or two pole positions and win some races, that would be great,” he said.

“I’m not thinking about the championship really, but you kind of never do. If you win all the races you win the championship.

Reflecting on the first races of the 650S, Bell admits there’s room for improvement but that things are moving in the right direction at the same time.

“The car is pretty much finished because it’s homologated for three years now, but at the end of the day the 650S is still in its infancy,” he continued.

“It’s a step forward from the 12C in terms of feel. We had to make it easier to drive for gentlemen drivers, but now we have to work on the performance.

“At the minute it’s reliable and easier to drive. In terms of development we are quite happy where we are, we just need to find that little bit of performance and then I think we have a really strong future.

With reliability not always having been a strong point of the MP4-12C GT3, McLaren has worked hard on ensuring the car is ready for the longer endurance races later in the year, including the Paul Ricard 1000km and Total 24 Hours of Spa.

The 650s GT3 made its debut in December’s Gulf 12 Hours at Abu Dhabi, a race that helped prepare the British manufacturer for its first full season with the car.

“At the moment the test car is on its third cycle,” Bell said. “The engine and gearbox have done three times the amount of mileage that they should do and we haven’t had a problem yet.”

Vincent Wouters (@VinceWouters) is a Belgium-based sports car racing reporter, providing coverage primarily of the Blancpain GT Series.

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