Matt Bell was part of the #3 United Autosports LMP3 squad that finished second in the season opening European Le Mans Series race, the Four Hours of Silverstone on Saturday, alongside fellow Briton Wayne Boyd and American Mark Patterson.
Bell took the opening stint of the race before handing over to his team-mates, and avoided the first lap chaos when, on a cold circuit a handful of cars lost control on the approach to the start line, although Bell himself had prepared himself for such problems due to racing in similar cold conditions in the past.
“It was an interesting one, the start was certainly eye opening,” said Bell to The Checkered Flag. “Luckily as I’ve got a little bit of experience of starting here before in cold conditions I kind of knew that grip was going to be fairly low.
“Especially just coming down Hangar Straight after one and a half laps of rolling, a wheel spun in second gear, so I kind of expected a bit of carnage and there certainly was, but luckily I was prepared for it so I managed to avoid it.
“It seemed to benefit me I think, I think I came out of it in third, got into second within four or five laps, I think, and then got into a rhythm. I didn’t quite have the pace to challenge the sister car in that phase of the race.
“I think there are a few things we can do on our side of the garage to improve that for next time and take the fight to them a bit more, but it is really a dream start to the season, a 1-2 finish for the team and a fairly dominating performance from the team.”
Bell thanked the team for the opportunity to race the Ligier JS P3 in 2016 alongside Boyd and Patterson, including team principals Zak Brown and Richard Dean, who at Silverstone announced that United Autosports would be Onroaks United Kingdom agent for LMP3 machinery.
“A huge thanks from me to the team,” said Bell. “I’ve obviously been with them since the start, to see them achieve this kind of success in this calibre of paddock is absolute just rewards for the whole team, for Zak [Brown] and Richard [Dean] at the top of it and I hope to continue the success.”
Bell has switched over to LMP3 machinery from GT cars in 2016, and admitted he is still coming to terms with the switch, but admits that finishing second at Silverstone first time out is confidence boosting for him.
“It’s very different, it’s been a little tricky,” said Bell. “I’ve probably got a little bit more [to come], I seem to be able to put a lap time in every now and then but i am not quite as comfortable in it as I am in a GT car, so there is still a little bit more to come on that side of things, but we are still at the front.
“There is still more from us to come, on my side, on the whole car side and we’re finishing P2 so, if we’re focusing on what we achieve the gains we think we’ve got in the bag, then yeah, its good.
It’s a little bit confidence inspiring really, I think the second fastest lap of the race, and relatively happy with that but you always like to be P1, so we will not stop on our side of the garage until we’re there, and obviously the 1-2s continue for the team.”
The European Le Mans Series now moves to the Italian circuit of Imola next month, a circuit he has not previously raced, but is hoping for another strong weekend with the United Autosports outfit.
“A track I’ve not raced at before but we tested there and it seemed to go really well, as well, so fingers crossed,” said Bell.