Slipstream Network

DriverQnA with Matt Bell: Rolex 24 Debrief

Slipstream Network brings you the second installment of our #DriverQnA series, featuring driver Matt Bell. Thank you for your participation on our social media platforms to present these questions, using the #DriverQnA hashtag.

Matt Bell’s No. 6 Stevenson Motorsport Audi R8 LMS had quite an eventful weekend and race. Andrew Davis qualified the car 15th in class. An action packed race full of surprises for the Stevenson Motorsport team led way to a 15th place finish. Completing the Rolex 24 is a big enough task in itself, even without all the trouble that the team encountered. The all-star team learned much about the new car and will use the data they gained this weekend to ensure future success.


 

 

MB: I seem to be about a pound down from where I was before I left for Daytona. That said, I’ve been eating everything in sight since the race, so it’s a little hard to tell. If it is any indication of how hard we’re working, my first stint I burned 1360 calories and the second stint I burned 1612 calories, according to my Suunto Ambit. I didn’t wear my heart rate strap the final stint, but it was about as long as the second. These were double and triple fuel stints, and you could clearly see from my heart rate when I was in traffic, when caution periods were, and when I was getting in and out of the car. Your brain uses a lot of energy, so when you’re really focusing you burn a serious amount of calories.

 

MB: It was mostly marketing and promotional videos on the new R8 road car and the new R8 LMS. The car is really remarkable, and after a decade of the original model’s circulation, they had time to perfect the latest version. Audi is rightfully very proud of the engineering that went into the new car, and I don’t think anyone in the hospitality area was getting tired of watching the videos about it! I know it was very distracting doing Q&A talks while a 2016 R8 Plus rips around a race track on the screens.

 

MB: When I got into pro racing, I was told I should build a brand around myself. I wanted the MBellRacing image– if on a t-shirt, a hat, my helmet, or a pair of socks– to have some kind of recognizable texture or pattern to distinguish it from everyone else’s checkered flag or carbon fiber print. This sounds odd, but the day I was thinking of a design, I was doing laundry and was folding a pair of grey and purple argyle dress socks. Yes, I own a pair or two. It dawned on me that argyle is so uncool, that it’s almost cool again, so I went with it. I also wanted a color scheme that would stand out in a dark car, so I went for a day-glow green as a highlight color. My helmet, in its third iteration, has bright green sides, a matte black front, and argyle all over the back.

Oddly enough, the person we bring in as our spotter quite often at Stevenson Motorsport also has argyle as his accent pattern for his brand. We started a friendly competition, adding more and more of the pattern to our gear until he decidedly won with his argyle tattoo… I’m not that dedicated.

 

 

MB: It had been a couple years since I last did a 24 hour race, and I’ve never done a 12 hour race. With this many enduros on the schedule, I decided I would really try and up my cardio endurance. I’ve been running a lot more than I usually do the last four months or so. After the Roar, I had some pretty sore triceps from the wheel being in the wrong position for me. Though we fixed the adjustment issue in the car, I figured I’d up my game on those exercises, as well. It wasn’t enough time to really build what I needed to, but I’ll definitely be in better shape for Sebring. I think I stressed a bit more about my fitness than I needed to. The car is really easy to drive. Of the four types of cars I’ve run at Daytona in the 24h, this was, by far, the easiest on the driver.

 

 

MB: I think we just need to keep everything in perspective. With scheduling of when we got the cars, how long it took to prep, our lack of testing relative to teams that had their cars earlier, and the weather at the track, we really didn’t have much time to work with the new equipment. All that considered, I think we did surprisingly well. We have data points now on what works and what doesn’t. With such a great, professional team, we don’t need much more than that to learn a lesson and come back next race stronger. “Everyday is a school day.” People will hear me say that a lot. What separates the good teams from the great teams is how they learn each time the car is run. We have a remarkable group of people behind us at Stevenson Motorsport, from the full time mechanics, to the engineers, to the Audi support. It is incredibly rare to have an unanswered question coming into the next event, and that is why this team is simply one of the best, in my opinion.


Ultimately we are all happy to be able to finish our first Rolex 24 At Daytona with the twin Audi R8 LMS machines. We are really pleased to be working with and representing Audi. This year certainly wasn’t without its challenges. I lost a right rear tire up against the wall in NASCAR turn 2 with GTD cars below, and that’s as exciting as it sounds. I saw Jesus. Lawson got in and some body-work that had been dislodged cut down a second right rear tire on his out lap. We had a wheel weld itself to the right rear hub which meant I had a triple-stinted left rear and sticker tires everywhere else — as sketchy in the bus stop as it sounds.

I had just a few small issues throughout my stint. The biggest issue was that contact with the No. 02 in Turn 5. He just came out of nowhere. It always happens though, we get to the end of the race and people start making high-risk moves that they probably shouldn’t. But that contact sent us back to the garage where we were able to fix a rear-left wheel issue we had been dealing with for a couple of pit stops. We did four brakes and both rear wheels which involved cutting the left rear wheel off the car with a Saw-Zall. The way the team and the guys at Audi worked to get me back on track so quickly was absolutely incredible, I can’t say enough about them, especially the Audi guys. They were just machines. It was a disappointing run for me, but we are still learning the car, and are happy to have gotten there in the end.

Matt’s next race will be the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on March 19. He’s poised to return to the No. 9 machine with Lawson Aschenbach for the rest of the season. The physically demanding circuit hosts the second round of the 2015 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as well the second round of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. Catch the race on Fox Sports 1 and IMSA TV and get ready to ask the next round of questions for #DriverQnA with Matt Bell.

DriverQnA with Matt Bell features race-related questions, like above, from the fans using the hashtag, #DriverQnA, on Twitter and Facebook. Fans are encouraged to Tweet or Facebook post their questions throughout the race weekend to see them answered by Matt through the column at Slipstream Network after the weekend has received the checkered flag. Fans can see new posts after each IMSA race weekend at www.slipstreamnetwork.com/driverqna.

Dusty Michael

As a mechanical engineer, Dusty’s passion is for sports cars and endurance racing. In his opinion, there’s nothing better than a race car closely based on a model that you can go out and buy from the manufacturer showroom. He’s very particular about his writing utensils and appreciates a great, cruelty free pomade.