Bell returns for Lime Rock Trans-Am qualifying. Immigration status resolved with moments to spare. Lakeville, CT -- Justin Bell returned to U.S. soil and narrowly made the deadline to qualify the ...
Bell returns for Lime Rock Trans-Am qualifying.
Immigration status resolved with moments to spare.
Lakeville, CT -- Justin Bell returned to U.S. soil and narrowly made the deadline to qualify the #40 XtremeLens/Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette for Round Three of the Trans-Am Series at Lime Rock Park, CT. Bell was forced to remain in Canada until his visa was renewed. An unexpected delay prevented him from legally crossing the border after the Mosport Trans-Am race. Justin came directly to the track from the airport and was dressed in his race gear when he stepped out of the car. When he arrived, Derhaag Motorsports had only one minute left to declare to Trans-Am officials which driver would be fielding the car and only five minutes before the qualifying session would begin.
Driver Kenny Wilden had been substituting for Justin Bell and was prepared to race if Justin failed to return in time. Wilden was 5th quick in morning practice. As planned, Wilden stepped aside for Bell. Justin put his car 7th on the grid, less than a second off the pole. Justin last competed at Lime Rock in 1989.
"One doesn't really appreciate what a luxury time is," reflected Justin, son of the legendary driver, Derek Bell. "When you have hours and hours of time, you become very casual about it. But when you are counting down every minute, it becomes this powerful force. That's exactly what happened yesterday when the paperwork was issued and had to be overnighted to me."
For most drivers, relinquishing a seat is one of the hardest things a driver can do, but Wilden demonstrated the highest level of professionalism. He was very upbeat about the turn of events.
"The job all along was to get the car set up for Justin," said Wilden. "That's what we focused on. As soon as he got here, I had notes for him on all the corners. We talked for a few minutes on the radio until he could get the hang of it. I was up there with his dad at turn two and that was nice. It was a good experience. Naturally I would prefer to be driving, but that wasn't what I was here to do."
Justin was in Canada for the Trans-Am race at Mosport where he finished third. His attorney assured him weeks ago that his visa renewal would be processed in time for him to return from the Mosport race. However, since 9/11, the processing time is longer due to heightened security measures and more intensive screening.
Bell's visa status was declared at 2:22 EST on Friday, May 24. He received written confirmation at 10:00 A.M. Saturday, May 25, 2002. He arrived at Bradley International Airport at 2:10 P.M. He was transported by passenger car to the track, which is typically a 1.5 hour drive. Bell arrived at Lime Rock Park at 3:44 P.M. The Trans-Am driver declaration deadline was 3:45. P.M. Qualifying for group one began at 3:50 P.M.
Bell will start the #40 XtremeLens/Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette from the 7th spot on Monday, May 27. The race will air live on Speed Channel at 3:00 P.M. EST.
Justin Bell is the Trans-Am Series' 2001 AmeriSuites Rookie-of-the-Year. Bell won the final two races of the 2001 season in the Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. A class-winner at Le Mans and FIA GT2 Champion, Justin is the managing partner of the Justin Bell GT Motorsports Experience, a Chevrolet Driving school located in Palm Beach County, FL.