Bell Returns to Trois Rivieres Podium With Third Place Finish Trois Rivieres, Que (13 Aug 2010) -Despite opening the day with a crash in practice, Matt Bell and Stevenson Motorsports rallied to take third place in the first-ever night running...
Bell Returns to Trois Rivieres Podium With Third Place Finish
Trois Rivieres, Que (13 Aug 2010) -Despite opening the day with a crash in practice, Matt Bell and Stevenson Motorsports rallied to take third place in the first-ever night running of the Grand Prix du Trois Rivieres on Friday night in the penultimate round of the 2010 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Championship.
Bell, who took a dominating race victory at the Quebec track last year, had been hoping for another strong outing with co-driver Jeff Bucknum as the duo once again were set to share the driving duties in the No. 6 Sunoco Fuels Camaro.
The night race schedule set all practice, qualifying and race sessions on Friday, meaning that everything needed to go perfectly for a team to have a hope of success.
But as the first practice session opened up, it went exactly the opposite as the back of Bell's Camaro made contact with one of the concrete walls that envelop the track. The contact caused significant damage--more so in fact than Bell even knew-- as the damage was significant enough to eliminate his ability to steer, an unfortunate fact that he only came to discover as he tried to navigate his way back to the pits, causing yet more damage to the iconic looking blue Camaro.
"I was looking for the limit, and unfortunately, I found it--right on the wall," said Bell, who had never before had such a thing happen in GRAND-AM competition. "I don't know what happened, if there was oil down or I just had too much speed, but it took me by surprise. And then making contact with the other side of the car after I lost steering only made things worse for the guys. That was of course not how I wanted to start the day."
The Friday night race meant that the GRAND-AM paddock was set outside the track. While that move meant that egress from the facility would be easier for the teams after the race, it also meant that during the day, the team tools and equipment were far away. Particularly for the repair job that was needed.
But Stevenson Motorsports, which has been impressive all year long despite growing to nearly twice its size from last year, was once again in top form as the crew did everything it took to get the No. 6 Sunoco Fuels Camaro ready to go in qualifying--almost. The huge rush to make repairs saw the team falling afoul of a rule--only set for this weekend--that forced the teams to move their equipment away from the pit lane. But with the focus on the guerilla repairs to the cars, that didn't happen.
So as Bell prepared to qualify a car that he'd only had a few laps on, had been repaired just moments before the session started, he still had to wait. And wait. The infraction cost him five minutes of track time during the qualifying session.
Undaunted, Bell took to the track and set a fast lap time of 1:11.945 seconds to lead all Camaro runners as he took ninth on the grid despite the banged up car and the lack of track time.
That grid position translated to a good opening stint for Bell before turning the machine over to Bucknum, who put in a strong performance, particularly when considering that his race laps were his first laps in the Camaro during the weekend.
As the sun set and the race turned into full night mode, the effort that the Stevenson Motorsports team had put forth paid big dividends as the No. 6 Camaro scored a second podium finish of the year as Bucknum crossed the line in 3rd.
"I was pretty happy with my opening stint and just wanted to give Jeff a car he could race to the finish," said Bell. "I have to hand it to the Stevenson guys, they worked so hard to have us ready to go. So to get a podium finish after the way the day started, I can't believe it, this is really a great way to end a very long day!"