GT Daytona McLaren 720S GT3
- Corey Fergus
- Jeff Kingsley
- Paul Holton
By any measure, Matt Bell has had a break-out season in his very first year competing in the top Grand Sports (GS) class of Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge competition, setting new track records as well as taking a record number of pole positions after kicking off the year with a dramatic win in the season-opening race at Daytona.
But one thing he hasn’t done since move up to GS is run the second half of the endurance events as his team has tapped the youngster for his qualifying and race-opening talents, a strategy that has paid dividends with Bell leading over 70 laps so far this season.
However this weekend, Bell will not only get to run the opening stint of the GS, but he’ll also get a shot at closing the Street Tuner event on Saturday as he returns to compete in the ST class with series powerhouse Compass360 Racing. Bell will be sharing the driving duties with Bret Spaude, who will qualify and open the race before turning the No. 75 Honda Civic Si machine over to Bell to charge to the finish.
Bell raced a BMW in the ST class in 2008 as he stepped up to KONI Challenge after success in the BMW Club racing ranks. The chance to build his front-wheel drive resume with a strong team was one that Bell didn’t want to pass up, even though it will make for a busy weekend for the Daytona winner, with the ST Class race on Saturday evening ahead of the GS Class event on Sunday.
“This is going to be a busy weekend!” joked Bell. “But it’s a great opportunity for me to race for Compass and I want to thank Karl (Thomson, C360R principal) for making this possible. This is the kind of weekend drivers really look forward to. Qualifying and starting the races in GS has been really satisfying, but I’m also looking forward to running to the checkered flag on Saturday. I learned a lot about racing in KONI last year, but I feel like I have some unfinished business and hopefully we can make it back to the podium this weekend.”
Compass360 Racing has made quick work of the deployment of the all-new Honda Civic Si, taking 3 wins—including a series record-setting 1-2-3 podium-dominating performance at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Bell will also have the advantage of some level of familiarity with the car, after having impressed the team in testing the car at Mid-Ohio in June.
“Matt really impressed us when he tested the car last month, so we’re happy that he’s able to join us this weekend at Barber,” said Thomson. “This has been a great season so far for us, and hopefully Matt and Bret will add another chapter to that this weekend. He’s been really strong in GS this year, and we’re excited to see him close out the race on Saturday night for us.”
Practice begins Thursday morning with a track practice day, followed by practice Friday afternoon and qualifying Saturday morning. The two-and-a-half hour ST race is scheduled for 2:50 PM on Saturday, with the GS race slated to start at 8:20 a.m. Sunday.