Rob Bell predicts that Garage 59’s victory at the Nürburgring in the Blancpain Sprint Cup will not be an accurate reflection of their form in this weekend’s Endurance Cup showdown on the full Grand Prix circuit.
Bell and team-mates Come Ledogar and Shane van Gisbergen have led the Endurance Cup standings since the very first round at Monza, but a difficult Spa 24 Hours saw their advantage cut to just nine points by Bentley trio Maxime Soulet, Andy Soucek and Wolfgang Reip. Spa winners Alexander Sims and Philipp Eng and the HTP Mercedes of Maxi Buhk, Dominik Baumann and Jazeman Jaafar are also firmly in contention, tied a further four points behind.
However, whilst Bell and team-mate Alvaro Parente were the class of the field when the Sprint Cup visited the short circuit in July, the longer configuration reverts to a BOP akin to that used at the Hungaroring, where McLaren scored no points.
“The short circuit was Category D but the longer circuit is a Category C, the same as Hungaroring, so we are expecting a tough time,” explained Bell, who won the final British GT race of the year at Donington last weekend with Alasdair McCaig. “We’ll roll our sleeves up and if we get 100% out of what we’ve got, then we’ll be in with a shout. In a three-hour race you never know what can happen.”
Bell, van Gisbergen and Kevin Estre won at the Nürburgring in Endurance last year, however that owed much to a creative fuel strategy that would not be allowed under the current sporting regulations.
“I’ve been racing quite a long time now and I’m certainly not one to get carried away,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter who’s leading until we’re ten races in – nothing matters if you’re leading after seven races, or after nine races, you go to each one and you do the best you possibly can. That doesn’t change if you have a good weekend or if you have a bad weekend.
“We came out of Hungaroring thinking we’re off the pace on a Category C circuit and that’s it. I wasn’t distraught or anything, that’s the nature of this industry at the moment. You’re not going to be quickest at every race, but we’ve enjoyed that rollercoaster and now we’ve got to finish it off and get the job done. We’ll go there looking for a good scrap and we’ll do the best that we can.”
Bell and Ledogar will also have to do without van Gisbergen, who is on Supercars duty in the Sandown 500. His place will be taken by Duncan Tappy, a Garage 59 regular in the International GT Open.
“Obviously Duncan is a little bit younger than me but a similar sort of ilk, I’ve known him a long time and he’ll bring his own set of group skills,” Bell said. “He’s driven the car all year in GT Open and he drove it at Spa, so he’s coming into a car he knows – he’s a good guy to have.
“Shane is going to be a loss because I’ve been driving with him in Blancpain Endurance for two years now, you get to know how each other work and we work really well together. But I know Duncan has got the experience to come in and do a job, it won’t faze us at all.”