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Paul Brown/Tiger Racing’s Bell Comes from 12th To Finish on the Podium After Stirring Last-Lap Pass In Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge Finale at Sonoma
SONOMA, CA — With a large contingent from eBay Motors cheering him on, Justin Bell charged from 12th to finish third in Paul Brown/Tiger Racing’s eBay Motors No. 50 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Saturday afternoon in the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge GTS season finale at Sonoma.
The podium finish was very exciting, as Bell moved from fourth to third in the very last turn of the very last lap of the race. The Los Angeles-based driver earned the series’ “Sunoco Hard Charger” award for advancing more positions than anyone else in the race, which featured 19 GT entries and 18 entries in the class in which Bell competes, GTS.
The podium finish was a fitting reward for the trials the Covina CA based team experienced at this track. The team’s primary car suffered a rare mechanical issue in practice on Thursday afternoon that might have forced the team to withdraw from the race. It was able to rent a Mustang Boss 302 in Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge trim from Rehagen Racing, however. Bell qualified 12th in the car on Friday afternoon with a time of 1:46.117 and an average speed of 80.910 miles per hour for the 2.358-mile, 11-turn road course.
The team worked hard to fine-tune the borrowed mount before Saturday’s race, including fitting it with its usual eBay Motors and Kenny Brown Performance livery. Kenny Brown Performance is also a primary sponsor of the team, and participates in a technology-transfer program with it that helps both entities.
Bell was determined to reward his teammates for all that hard work in the 50-minute race when he blasted off deep in the field at the standing start. He advanced to seventh before the first full-course caution waved before even one lap had been completed by passing Harry Curtin’s Camaro and Mustangs driven by Brad Adams, Roger Miller and Alec Udell.
The yellow was due to contact between Nick Esayain’s Acura and Adams in Turn 3A. Esayain’s car had to leave on a flat-bed truck, while Adams continued after pitting to change a flat tire.
The green waved again working lap five. It didn’t take Bell long to get another position, as he passed Lou Gigliotti’s Camaro to move into sixth place working lap six.
The driver who was fifth, Michael Galati, was about 3 seconds ahead of Bell at that point, but Bell got some help when Miller, Udell and Adams crashed in Turn 11 working lap 9 to bring out the second full-course caution and tighten the field.
The race was about a half-hour old when the green waved again working lap 13. Bell got to work immediately. He had closed the gap to Galati to just 0.779 of a second when he set his fastest lap of the race on lap 14 with a time of 1:45.432 and an average speed of 81.436 mph.
The action a little bit ahead of him was heating up at that point too, as Andy Lee was pressuring the polesitter and the leader to date, Jack Baldwin. Baldwin’s Porsche Cayman suffered a flat left-front tire that forced him off the pace, gave Lee the lead and the eventual victory, and caused Baldwin to end up 12th in the final rundown. It also gave Bell one more position, moving the eBay Motors car into fifth place.
Bell had more than a 5-second lead over the sixth-place driver, Gigliotti, at that point and he was just 0.609 of a second behind the fourth-place driver, Galati. He was able to increase his advantage over Gigliotti and maintain about the same distance behind Galati until he was able to get around Galati working lap 20 and move into fourth place.
The next driver in his scopes was Mark Wilkins, who was about 2.337 seconds ahead of him in a Kia. Bell cut that gap to 1.987 seconds by lap 22, but he lost some ground on the next lap when the lead GT cars starting lapping the lead GTS cars. The final podium position was 2.627 seconds out of Bell’s grasp with 23 laps in the book, but he cut that to just 1.038 seconds on the next-to-last lap of the race.
Time was running out and most of the people cheering for Bell were thinking how amazing it would be to get fourth after starting 12th, but Bell wasn’t done yet. He passed Wilkins in the very last turn on the very last lap to snatch third place, securing the final podium position by just 0.559 of a second when he crossed the start-finish line.
Lee took the victory over the class’s champion, Peter Cunningham, with Bell third, Wilkins fourth and Galati rounding out the top five.
It was Bell’s fourth podium finish of the season, including two victories at the season opener in St. Petersburg, FL in March. Although he only ran a partial season, he finished sixth in the overall GTS driver point standings out of 41 drivers. Ford finished second to Acura in the manufacturer point standings.
“It was a nice way to end the season,” said Bell. “I was pressuring Mark [Wilkins] as hard as I could, hoping he would make a mistake. I knew he was having some problems with his brakes, and I thought I might get him in Turn 7. I didn’t, but I made him know I was there. Then in Turn 11, I was almost willing him to make a mistake. We touched a little and he overshot the turn, and I got him on the outside in Turn 11. I passed him in the final chicane on the final lap.
“Being able to finish on the podium was great for the team, for eBay and for the kids from the Children’s Tumor Foundation who were here with us this weekend,” Bell added. “It’s a reminder to everyone that Paul Brown/Tiger Racing is a force to be reckoned with. We had some problems this season that weren’t of our own making, so to finish on the podium today was an all-around great effort from the whole team.”
Video of the race is available at World-ChallengeTV.com. NBC Sports Network will also show the race on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.
Additional information is available on the series’ Web site at World-Challenge.com.
About eBay Motors: eBay Motors, a part of eBay Inc., is the Internet’s largest marketplace for buying and selling all things automotive. The site offers everyday cars for everyday drivers as well as collector cars, motorcycles, auto parts and accessories. eBay Motors is consistently ranked the No. 1 automotive site on the Web by Nielsen/NetRatings. Nearly 4.5 million new and used vehicles have been sold on eBay Motors, and there are more than 22 million automotive parts and accessories available on eBay Motors at any given time.
About Kenny Brown Performance: Kenny Brown, a 25-year veteran in the Ford Mustang performance aftermarket, is legendary for building some of the most technically advanced Mustangs in North America. His critically acclaimed AGS (Advanced Geometry Suspension) high-performance suspension components for street and track-day Mustangs are some of the best and most innovative in the aftermarket. Brown is a well-known celebrity in the Ford aftermarket and has played a critical role in Mustang racing heritage and new product development since 1986. For more information see KennyBrown.com and visit Kenny Brown Performance on Facebook.
About Paul Brown/Tiger Racing: Paul Brown/Tiger Racing won the 2011 SCCA Pro Racing Pirelli World Challenge GTS team championship and propelled its owner/driver Paul Brown to the driver’s championship and Ford to the manufacturer’s title. Based in the Los Angeles suburb of Covina, Calif., it is also involved in the NASA AIX, VSCDA, SVRA and VARA series. It specializes in race car prep, transportation and trackside support as well as exotic and luxury car maintenance and repairs. It is a popular source for carbon fiber and fiberglass work as well as race car parts for Mustangs and other high-performance cars.