Robert ’Rob’ Bell is the British racing driver who competes in various sports car competitions. His best results are two consecutive championship titles in GT2 class of the Le Mans Series (2007, 2008), overall victory in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup in 2016 and Pro-Am title in the International GT Open in 2017.
From karting to single-seaters
Rob Bell was born in April 1979 in Newcastle upon Tyne and as many of his colleagues, Rob began his career driving a karting when he was 11 years old. Over the years he won numerous regional championships before entering the bigger stage in 1996 when he became Belgian Formula A Kart champion. In the following year, Bell was 3rd in the European Formula A Kart Championship and also competed in the World Cup in Japan where he was voted Top Dunlop Driver.
After graduating in karting, Bell progressed to single-seaters and spent two seasons in Formula Vauxhall Championship. In 1998, Rob was 5th in Junior rankings while in 1999 he finished 3rd in the main series, after a big battle with champion Gary Paffett and runner-up Ryan Dalziel.
In 2000 he progressed to British Formula Ford and again finished 3rd in the standings but triumphed at Formula Ford World Cup and caught the eyes of many teams. Rob stayed in the series for another season and dropped to the 4th position but was the best-placed British driver.
Bell also raced in Formula Renault Winter Series and won two consecutive titles in 2001 and 2002, while in the main series his best result was the 4th place in 2002. In the following two years, he raced with a considerable success in Fran-Am Formula Renault Championship in which he finished 3rd in 2003 and in Renault V6 European Championship where he took the 5th place in 2004, his last year in open-wheels racing.
Switch to sports car racing
The next stop in Rob’s career was the sports car racing. In 2005 he debuted in the Le Mans Series and won the GT1 class at 1000 km of Nurburgring, driving an Aston Martin DBR9 alongside Darren Turner and Frederic Dor.
He stayed in the series in the following year, driving Team LNT’s Panoz Esperante alongside Warren Hughes. They won the races at Donington and Jarama before finishing 3rd in the final GT2 standings.
Bell was 2007 and 2008 GT2 class LMS champion
English racer became the 2007 LMS champion in GT2 class. His third attempt was lucky and Bell won his first major title driving Virgo Motorsport’s Ferrari F430 GT. Rob triumphed at Nurburgring driving alongside Allan Simonsen while his second win of the season was at Silverstone where his co-driver was Gianmaria Bruni.
It was the really good season for the Newcastle-born driver who also scored a podium in other four rounds. The same year Bell debuted at Le Mans 24h, driving Team LNT’s Panoz Esperante with Lawrence Tomlinson and Richard Dean. They finished 5th in GT2 class and 22nd overall.
In the following year, Bell defended his LMS crown. He and Bruni were absolutely dominant in GT2 class and won 4 out of 6 rounds driving a Ferrari F430 GT. Unfortunately, the retired on lap 289 at Le Mans 24h. During 2008 Bobby also scored two wins in the FIA GT Championship and appeared in two races of the American Le Mans Series, driving a Ferrari prepared by Risi Competizione.
More duties on both sides of the Atlantic
Bell narrowly missed an opportunity to win his third consecutive title in the Le Mans Series. He and Bruni lost their crown by only one point to Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz. At Le Mans 24h he finished 4th in GT2 class driving JMW Motorsport’s Ferrari alongside Andrew Kirkaldy and Tim Sugden. Probably the best result scored in 2009 was the 2nd place in GT2 class at 24 Hours of Spa when he was driving the CRS Racing’s Ferrari with Andrew Kirkaldy, Antonio Garcia, and Peter Kox. Finally, the same year he raced in the US. Driving the Drayson Racing’s Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT2, he retired from 12h of Sebring on lap 204, while at Petit Le Mans he debuted in LMP1 class, driving a Lola-Judd of the same team but retired again.
The season of 2010 wasn’t successful for the British driver. He retired at an early stage of Le Mans 24h, the results in the Le Mans Series also weren’t impressive, just as the result at Petit Le Mans where Bell was driving Robertson Racing’s Ford GT-R.
In 2011 results were better. Rob finished as a runner-up in the GT2 class of Le Mans Series. Driving alongside James Walker he won the races at Circuit Paul Ricard and Estoril but at the end of the season, British drivers were 2nd in the standings, losing to AF Corse’s Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni. Over the season Bell also appeared in the US most important endurance races at Daytona (2nd in GT class), Sebring, and Petit Le Mans.
Blancpain Endurance Series debut
Bell continued to race in various championships but this time as a McLaren factory pilot. The results in 2012 were variable but what probably was the most important for his career was the debut in the Blancpain GT Series.
In 2013 the Brit raced part-time in the FIA World Endurance Series driving an Aston Marting Vantage GTE and his best result was the 2nd place in LMGTE class at Spa 24 Hours where he was driving alongside Bruno Senna and Frederic Makowiecki.
After relatively quiet 2014, in the following year he had many duties. Driving a McLaren 650S GT3 alongside Kevin Estre, he finished 4th in Blancpain Endurance Series with two race wins on his account. As the Aston Martin factory driver, Bell contested at Le Mans 24h but retired on lap 110.
The season of 2016 was the best in Bell's career so far
The season of 2016 was the best in Rob’s career so far. At the beginning of the season, Bell won the title in the Asian Le Mans Series driving alongside Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok. That was a good encouragement for the rest of the season in Blancpain GT Series.
Driving the Garage 59’s McLaren 650S GT3 with co-drivers Come Ledogar and Shane van Gisbergen, the Newcastle-born racer became Blancpain Endurance Series champion. They won the races at Circuit Paul Ricard and Monza and with a bit of luck in the last race of the season were crowned as the champions.
In Blancpain Sprint Series he drove with Kevin Estre, won the race at Nurburgring and finished 6th in the standings. In the Blancpain GT Series overall standings, Bell finished as a vice-champion what was a fantastic achievement.
Finally, 2016 season was also marked with a debut in the GT3 class of British GT Championship. He was driving Ecurie Ecosse’s McLaren alongside Alasdair McCaig and won the season-closing race at Donington.
One more championship title in 2017
In 2017, Bell continued to race with McLarens. He spent a season with Strakka Racing both in the Endurance Cup and Sprint Cup of the Blancpain GT Series but without notable results. On the other side, he joined Balfe Motorsport in the International GT Open. Together with Sean Balfe, he was a race winner three time in Pro-Am class in the #22 McLaren 650S GT3, winning the championship title.
He also participated in some endurance races. At Bathurst 12 Hours, he was fifth together with Alvaro Parente and Come Ledogar. At 24 Hours of Le Mans, he joined Aston Martin Racing to drive Aston Martin Vantage GTE in GTE Am class, not finishing the race.
Bell stayed with Balfe Motorsport on a part-time schedule in the British GT Championship in 2018, but without notable results.