Morpeth's Rob Bell crossed the line sixth in class in the famous Rolex Daytona 24-Hours race on Sunday, as his younger brother Matt battled with mechanical gremlins in his first race on American soil.
Rob took a jubilant sixth place in the GTLM class driving the factory SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R in his second attempt at the legendary endurance race in Florida.
But it was a more frustrating outing for Matt, who was denied the chance to fight for class victory by a 20-minute pit-stop 13 hours into the race.
The event marked Rob’s second appearance at Daytona, but his first time with the SRT Motorsports team.
After a strong qualifying session, Rob and the No 93 team were straight on the pace when the lights changed on Saturday afternoon, taking the class lead in the opening lap.
Eight hours in and the team were running strong until they made contact with another car which forced them into the pits for repairs to the front. Rejoining several laps down, Bell and the team pushed hard to fight back, moving back into the top five by mid-morning on Sunday.
However, their bad luck wasn’t over yet, as a driveshaft issue hit and the car was again forced into the pits. Although the team were able to make the necessary repairs, all hopes of a podium were gone and they had to settle for sixth in class.
“It was great to be racing in Daytona with the SRT Motorsports team,” he said. “The car had really good pace in the early stages and we all really enjoyed our stints.
“It’s been a solid start to the season, the car has so much potential. I’m really looking forward to being back with the team and the Viper in Sebring.”
Meanwhile, younger Bell sibling Matt has returned home from the States convinced his experience will assist him in his quest for British GT Championship glory this year.
Already tipped as Britain’s rising GT star, Matt was making his American debut alongside drivers Christopher Haase and Bryce Miller in the Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS machine.
The Audi started from class pole-position on Saturday afternoon and fought for the lead until around 3.30am on Sunday before the time-consuming pit-stop cost Bell and the team any chance of a podium.
“We were consistently fast and fighting for the lead until just after mid-distance,” he explained. “Starting from pole, leading and setting the fastest lap in the race shows our Audi ran very strong.
“Unfortunately, a water leak from a pipe located in an almost inaccessible part of the engine bay put us out of contention which was a great shame.”
At the chequered flag the team scored an unrepresentative 16th, but Matt refused to be downhearted about the result.
“Considering this Audi was new to the Miller team, it was a new driver line-up sharing the R8 and I was making my Daytona debut, I have to be pleased with the overall performance,” he added.