Greenwich based Bell overcame a time-zapping puncture on the often-snowless stages to secure a positive start to his career-defining campaign in the World Rally Championship, to be the first newcomer and Briton from the 16 series contenders.
Bell has enjoyed a rapid rise to the top tier of the sport, enjoying success at every level he has competed in. After beginning his career in Latvia and Estonia, Bell mounted a full assault on the Junior British Rally Championship in 2019 in a Ford Fiesta R2T, dovetailing that with the Peugeot Iberica Cup which offered events in Spain and Portugal.
His maiden Junior BRC podium came in Ypres behind the wheel of the Ford, which was followed by fourth place at the Ulster Rally and Galloway Hills Rally. His results were enough to award him €60,000 towards a JWRC campaign thanks to M-Sport and Pirelli, offering him the perfect opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best young drivers, all eager to reach to the top-tier of the sport.
Co-driven by 2018 British Champion Darren Garrod, Bell would put his prize to good use which would start with the daunting Rally Sweden. Dubbed as the “fastest rally in the world” thanks to the high speeds reached on the thick ice and snowbanks which flank the stages, there would be a twist to the season opener this year as the wintry conditions failed to arrive, leaving many stages with little more than gravel on the surface.
With the shortened itinerary due to the climate, there would be just 174 kilometres of competitive driving available, spread over 11 tests during the weekend. Sixteen crews in identical M-Sport Ford Fiesta’s would tackle the event which kicked off on Friday morning.
Despite being a far cry from the events contested in the UK last season, Bell adapted quickly to the unique conditions. A tricky mixture of thick ice and muddy gravel lay ahead and Bell professed to be “easing in gently” to the new surroundings. A puncture early in the event hampered progress up the leader board, costing just over a minute and leaving the Brit in ninth after the opening leg.
“I`m actually really pleased with this result, especially with the additional challenges we have faced this weekend,” said Bell.
“To be the first newcomer was certainly part of the goal this weekend, and that’s an impressive feat in itself given the fact these are some of the fastest Junior drivers in the world, many of which have the experience of a season in the series under their belts. If we didn’t have the puncture, it would have been fifth overall which I would have been delighted with”.
But Bell realises that there is still more work to do.
“I thought I was well prepared for the step into the Junior WRC and I felt I had the measure of the event. I’d done plenty of research and planning but the pace out front is impressive. There are still area’s I need to improve and that will be the key focus heading into the next event. But it’s a good start to the season for sure”.
The FIA Junior World Rally Championship is a five-round series, with the winner netting a brand-new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 and support from Pirelli throughout the 2021 WRC2 season. The next round on the calendar sees crews head to Italy for Rally Italia Sardegna in June.
Bell is supported by Protec Temporary Protection, Marex Spectron, Boolers Wealth Management Ltd, Marina Racewear and MSAR Motorsport.
Image Credit: M-Sport/FIA Junior WRC
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.