Bell Takes 4th at VIR to Close out 2009 KONI Challenge Season Danville, VA (5 October 2009) -- Matt Bell closed out the 2009 Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge season with a run to fourth place in the Bosch Engineering Octoberfest at Virginia...
Bell Takes 4th at VIR to Close out 2009 KONI Challenge Season
Danville, VA (5 October 2009) -- Matt Bell closed out the 2009 Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge season with a run to fourth place in the Bosch Engineering Octoberfest at Virginia International Raceway with co-driver Bill Auberlen in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3.
The result was Bell's eighth top-five finish of the year as the California native posted impressive results throughout his debut season running in the top Grand Sport (GS) Class. The KONI campaign marked his second year of competition on the Grand-Am tracks, and he put the lessons he learned last season to good use as he scored two race victories and took a record-setting string of pole positions, entering the final race weekend with a mathematical opportunity to win the driver championship.
Bell opened up the four-hour enduro from sixth on the 55-car combined GS and ST grid, and despite playing a conservative hand, was in the lead pack in the opening stages. The 3.27-mile circuit boasts 17 corners, and the traffic can be tight with such a large field, as Bell found as he was moved off-course and into a quick spin, sending him back to 14th in the order.
But that didn't deter the driver who has been synonymous with the front of the pack all year long as he charged back up to second position before turning the machine over to Auberlen to close out the day.
"The team kept working on the car all weekend and we kept getting better, but the car wouldn't stay consistent over the long run," said Bell. "I was just saving the car as much as I could, keeping a good pace and trying to put us in a good position for the second half of the race. It was too bad that I had that off because that cost us a little bit of track position, but the car was good enough that I could move back to the front and still be saving it for Bill."
Auberlen took the controls shortly after the middle point of the race and despite a long green flag run, was constantly moving to the point. A series of late-race caution periods saw Auberlen fighting for a podium position, only to suffer from contact from a familiar source. The offending driver was penalized for his comprehensive lack of sporting skills after the race, but the damage was done as the No. 96 machine was credited with a fourth place finish rather than scoring yet another Turner Motorsport podium at VIR.
"It was too bad what happened there at the end but I think we've seen that there are some guys you can race with and some guys you just can't," said Bell. "We don't have all the power that the Mustangs and Porsche guys do, so we have to make the most of what this BMW M3 can do in the corners and if guys are banging into you mid-corner, we are just going to have a hard time getting onto the podium. This was a great year and even though it's disappointing not to finish it with a better result today, this has been a fantastic experience to be a Turner Motorsport racer, and I'm looking forward to what's next."
Despite the outcome in the final moments of the event, the Turner Motorsports squad, which had also teamed with SupercarSensation.com for the VIR race weekend, was the lead BMW team once again in KONI competition.