Sportscars: Duo end season in fine style

North sportscar duo Warren Hughes and Rob Bell rounded of their ELMS season in style by powering to victory in Spain last weekend.

North sportscar duo Warren Hughes and Rob Bell rounded of their ELMS season in style by powering to victory in Spain last weekend.

Hughes of Sunderland and Bell, formerly of Morpeth brought their Team LNT Panoz Esperante machine across the line in first place at the season finale of the European Le Mans Series at the Jarama circuit in Madrid.

And the win was the second on the trot for the pair, who had scored their maiden victory in the stunning orange car at Donington Park last month.

Despite their win at the last round, both drivers had feared the Spanish round would be a tough one, especially with the circuit layout not suiting the handling style of the Panoz.

But a lightning start from Bell saw the car shoot up the order, and when Hughes took over the wheel an hour-and-a-half into the six-hour race, he kept it close to the front.

By Bell's second stint, the car was running in a strong second position, which the pair were to hold until the end of the race, and although they were initially thrilled with P2, they were even happier when they were handed the win.

The first car across the line had been the GPC Ferrari 430 machine, but stewards ruled the team had broken the rules. Regulations state that drivers can only do a maximum of four hours at a time, but one of the GPC men had done four-and-a-half and the team were disqualified, promoting Hughes and Bell to winners.

Hughes admitted it wasn't a surprise. "As soon as I got out of the car the team told me that they thought we had won because the Ferrari had broken the rules," he smiled. "I'm delighted because they felt under pressure from us."

And with the car never suited to the track, he says the victory just tasted sweeter. "If we hadn't pushed them, they could have taken it easy and not taken risks, but we forced them into an error. On a track which doesn't suit our car, I definitely think we deserved the victory ."

Pressure on locals

It seems like just a few weeks ago when the British Superbike Championship season kicked off at Brands Hatch in March, yet 13 rounds on we're back here for the final round . . . and it's all to play for.

The main championship is a three-way scrap between reigning champ Gregorio Lavilla, his Airwaves Ducati team-mate Leon Haslam, and Japanese hotshot Ryuichi Kiyonari on the HM Plant Honda.

But for the local boys taking part in the event there is just as much pressure.

Guisborough's Dennis Hobbs has two races this afternoon, and two chances to get his maiden win of 2006.

The 23-year-old was back on the podium two weeks ago when he scored a third at Silverstone, and is convinced he can do even better today.

Elsewhere in the 125GP Championship, Norton's Michael Hill is hoping to end the season in the points after scoring a string of good finishes throughout the year.

In the National Superstock Championship, Middlesbrough's Paul Veazey will finally end his troubled season onboard the dreaded Kawasaki which has plagued his year.

As the 20-year-old looks at options for 2007, he has scotched rumours he is to move to 600s. "I don't know where I'm going yet, but I want to stay on the thousand."

Sadly Veazey won't be joined on the grid by Gateshead's Chris Coates. Following a trip to hospital last week, doctors ruled the Krystal Racing Space Air rider out with a cracked heel bone.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer