Moving up the Championship standings at Donington
Another weekend finishing in the points see us moving up the Championship standings!
A strong weekend of racing from Nick Halstead, and stand-in Mclaren factory driver Rob Bell made it four point scoring finishes from four British GT rounds. The result maintained our assault on the GT3 ProAm class and ensured the 100% finishing record continues, as the series’ halfway point approaches.
The pair got to grips with the car during three sessions of evolving track conditions on Friday and then qualified eighth in ProAm on Saturday; both drivers gaining momentum as the team moved towards an optimal race set-up.
A number of adjustments after Saturday’s qualifying sessions helped improve the McLaren’s pace and allowed Nick to reach the first of three mandatory driver changes sitting in seventh, well and truly in contention for higher placings.
Hugely experienced Rob then climbed aboard the car, but was instantly dealt a blow when the McLaren was boxed in by a pair of GT4 cars in the adjacent pit boxes. A total of 35 seconds were lost as the crew had to jack the McLaren up, place it on wheeled trolleys and spin it around manually in order to allow it to exit the pit area under its own power afterwards.
This then put Rob behind the safety car and circulating a slow speed while other cars on the other side of the lap were able to continue at full racing speed and gain yet more time when they pitted on either of the two subsequent laps. The effect of this was that he dropped off the lead lap and fell down the order, but a charging fightback, meant he was back into the Pro-Am top 10 by the time Nick returned for his second stint.
Both Nick and Rob showed excellent consistency with their pace; the latter snatching an extra position with three minutes remaining as the pair came home seventh in Pro-Am and ninth overall.
Nick is now fourth in the Pro-Am standings with three of seven rounds completed.
Nick Halstead said: “The result isn’t what we hoped for, but we’ve scored some solid points from a weekend where we were just lacking a bit of speed and consistency to some of the others. We had a big problem at the first pitstop because we were blocked in by another car and then lost time when the safety car didn’t pick up the leader, we caught it instead and then we went green before the pack had been able to bunch up - 35 seconds in total, I reckon. Seventh in Pro-Am isn’t a disaster at all, but it feels like we’ve only finished there because other teams did silly things that cost themselves time and places. Pace-wise we’ve lacked something this weekend and we’ll work hard to put that right for Snetterton.”
Rob Bell said: “It’s always a good experience to be with a team for the first time, and coming back to one of my favourite circuits meant this was one I thought I’d enjoy anyway. It’s important to remember that this was only Fox’s third race weekend with the McLaren 720S GT3 and their first full season with a GT3 car of any sort, and given the competitiveness of British GT and the experience of some of the other teams, they’re on an incredibly steep learning curve. It’s clear to see how hard the team’s working and the rewards will surely come sooner rather than later if they keep making progress. Sure seventh in Pro-Am isn’t what we hoped for, and there were other cars that had better speed than us, but we definitely lost time with what happened with the safety car and without that I think the top five was quite achievable without that.”