Pirelli World Challenge - Bell Wins At St Pete
ST. PETERSBURG, March 25, 2012: Justin Bell charged from seventh on the grid to score a convincing GTS-class victory in Saturday’s season-opening Pirelli World Challenge race in the No. 50 Tiger Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S. The win was Bell’s first in World Challenge (WC) in only his second career start in the series, as well as the first in WC for the Children’s Tumor Foundation/Racing4Research.org and Bell’s sponsor eBay Motors.
Bell started seventh, fell to as low as 10th in the race’s hectic and caution-plagued opening laps, but soon realized he had a car capable of winning. He improved several positions with key passes in Turn 1, including his winning move on perennial series champion Peter Cunningham after the final restart of the race.“The move started coming up to the last corner,” Bell said. “I just got on it, it was the perfect exit, I am not sure he got the perfect exit, he pushed me all the way to the pit wall but I was like ‘this is my time to go by’ and it worked.”
Bell is substitute driving in the year’s opening WC rounds for reigning class champion and Tiger Racing manager Paul Brown, who is recovering from minor surgery.
“I had a lot of motivation,” Bell said. “I had to do a good job in Paul’s absence, eBay Motors and Mobile had the confidence and faith to put me in the car, and the children from the Children’s Tumor Foundation and Racing4Research visited with us earlier today. They are really the secret power, they are the real heroes.”
About two dozen young NF patients, or “heroes,” and their families visited with Bell and other WC teams at the track on Saturday prior to the race. The Children’s Tumor Foundation/Racing4Research program increases awareness of neurofibromatosis (NF) and raises funds for research to find a cure for the debilitating disease.
Bell first joined the CTF/Racing4Research program this past January, co-driving a Porsche GT3 in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and is honored to be racing for the cause again this weekend. His race win Saturday was the second for CTF after Ryan Eversley and Karl Thomson co-drove to a GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge Series victory last year at Virginia International Raceway. Donations for the cause can be made at www.racing4research.org where additional information on the program and NF can also be found.
Bell was quick to credit the championship-winning Tiger Racing team for the victory.
“Having never sat in this car before, having never seen this track before, they had to give me a good car,” Bell said. “That was one of the reasons that I agreed to do it. I knew this was a team that has a lot of aspirations and big ideas.”
Bell is celebrating his 25th year in professional racing in 2012 – a career that saw him capture the 1997 FIA GT2 World Championship – but he has become better known in recent years as a television reporter and host on SPEED and other broadcast and online outlets.
“I am actually really pleased that I won today,” Bell said. “After Petit Le Mans last year, the Rolex 24 At Daytona a couple of months ago and then coming here and winning, I just hope people stop using the term ‘the former’ or ‘retired’ racing driver when they say my name!”