Two Blancpain GT Endurance Cup race wins in 2016 have given McLaren hope for success in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Spa. Despite countless reliability issues in the past, sportscar veteran and McLaren works driver Rob Bell is confident his three-car team can launch a successful attack on the title in the Ardennes classic.
In the run-up to the big race McLaren has taken victory in the 12 Hours of Bathurst, the three-hour race at Monza and at the six-hour race into the dark at Paul Ricard, followed by a Blancpain GT Sprint Cup win at the Nürburgring. Now operating under the banner of Garage 59, the McLaren works team in all but name, is continuing on the groundwork done by Von Ryan Racing in previous years.
“It’s a different team,” Rob Bell describes the transition from Von Ryan Racing to Garage 59 and the success that came with it. “It has some of the same members, some new members. It think it’s just another year of evolution. We learned a lot last year with the Pirelli tyre and with the car. You’re always learning and evolving, and there’s a nice gel of new people that have come in and mixed with the old guys, we are strong in that department. So just an evolution.”
One of those new people is Bas Leinders. The former Marc VDS Racing team manager enjoyed great success with the Belgian squad, culminating in the win in last year’s 24 Hours of Spa. Having joined McLaren in the role of sporting manager, Bell is quick to point out the value that Leinders adds to the team.
“Bas has come in with good experience of this environment. He’s a good guy, he knows what he’s doing and I think that between the team gelling together, the evolution, and Bas coming in with some new ideas, it’s just moving forward. It’s just what you expect from Bas: He’s a world-class GT team manager, he has raced, knows what he’s doing, knows what to say, so he’s a good guy.”
With Leinders at the helm, McLaren goes into the 24 Hours of Spa. A race where McLaren has never had any luck, but Bell believes that might change this time around.
“To run any car for 24 hours is difficult, you will always have that in the back of your mind anyhow. We are working to get better and better at that. Literally anything can happen, so the drivers have to stay clean, we have to be lucky, and let’s see what the weather does at Spa.
“The Spa 24 Hours is our next goal, we really want to win that one, it’s a huge race for us.”
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