British racing driver Rob Bell had a challenging, yet ultimately unrewarding outing in the Sebring 12 hours in Florida, with a retirement seven hours into the race for Drayson Racing. During Bell’s third stint of the race the car’s engine lost oil pressure whilst running seventh in the GT2 class, ending a strong run for the bio-ethanol car. Bell was making the first of two appearances in the 2009 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in the Drayson Racing 007 Aston Martin Vantage GT2 alongside Paul Drayson and Jonny Cocker.
The opening round of the ALMS at Sebring was the first opportunity Bell had to get behind the wheel of the Aston Martin Vantage GT2. The team’s regular driver, Jonny Cocker completed the qualifying session for the team, but handling issues with the car hampered track time, ultimately putting them on the back foot during the session.
Lining up ninth on the grid in the GT2 category, Bell in only his second ever 12 hours of Sebring race, put in a solid first stint to the race and making up positions, before handing over to Jonny Cocker. A brief spin into the tyre barriers triggered by being forced offline by a prototype damaged the car’s rear wing. After a speedy nine minute repair in the pits, the team were back out on track with Paul Drayson behind the wheel.
After a quiet mid section of the race, Bell stepped in for his third stint seven hours in. The oil warning light had been on for the last few stints, but the team kept it topped up in the hope they could make it to the end. Half way through turn 15 the engine let go and Bell was forced to pull the car to a stop next to the track, ending the race for the Drayson team.
Rob Bell commented after the race, "Sebring is all about reliability and perseverance, but we just weren’t able to conquer the track this time. We’d had an oil warning light for a while and were only able to keep topping it off at each stop, hoping that we could make it to the end this way. It didn’t work out that way though, as the engine just let go on me.
Obviously it was disappointing not to make it to the end, but that’s the challenge of this series, especially an event like Sebring, which is such a huge test for the car and drivers. I really enjoyed driving the Aston, and it has been a pleasure to be part of the Drayson Racing team this week. Everyone put so much effort into being prepared for the race, we worked hard to develop the pace and we were certainly the quickest we’d been all week during the race. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but we tried our hardest.”
The next stop for Bell is the first round of the Le Mans Series in Barcelona, Spain on the 5th April, when he will be back behind the wheel of a Ferrari F430 with the JMW Racing team. He will then return to North America with Drayson Racing for the Petit Le Mans later in the year.