Bell’s whirlwind tour takes him to Le Mans for the first time

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LE MANS, France – The month of May was a whirlwind for Townsend Bell, and so is the month of June.

Of course, so was the month of April.

Since the Verizon IndyCar Series season started the final week of March in St. Petersburg, a race Bell watched from home, Bell has not had an off weekend since Easter.

The intervening weeks that have followed: simulator time in Paris, consecutive weeks on NBCSN IndyCar broadcasts in New Orleans (April 12), Long Beach (April 19) and Birmingham (April 26), a TUDOR Championship race in Monterey (May 3), Indianapolis (May 10 through 24, with a detour to New York for media day), Detroit for TUDOR (May 30), Le Mans for the test day (May 31), back to Texas for IndyCar (June 6), and back to Le Mans this week.

For good measure, he’ll go straight to Daytona for the next round of the Red Bull Global Rallycross (2 p.m. ET, Sunday, June 21 on NBC) and then to Watkins Glen for the next TUDOR race on June 28.

Has it been hectic?

“It hasn’t been up until my flight [Sunday] was about two hours late,” Bell told MotorSportsTalk during Le Mans scrutineering on Monday. “So to make the train to get here on time for our scrutineering slot required a half mile full on sprint with bags, and I made the train by three minutes. That’s the only time it felt chaotic.”

What’s now on tap for Bell this week is pit stop practice, a four-hour free practice session, the two qualifying sessions and then the race with fellow Le Mans rookies Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal in the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Am.

Bell described the mix of Italian and American influence that exists within Scuderia Corsa, Giacomo Mattioli’s team, that competes mainly in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge.

“We have a strong Italian influence on our team. There’s Italian technical director (Roberto Amorosi), Italian owner (Mattioli), and several Italian crewmembers. That enhances the overall ambiance,” Bell said.

“It’s like if you go into an Italian restaurant in New York City with Greek staff, it loses its charm. The authenticity is strong. But there’s a definite element of cowboy flavor that Bill, Jeff and I bring to it.”

Bell has had to have two studious roles, both as driver and commentator, throughout this whirlwind process.

“I probably haven’t studied enough for either,” he said. “But the Texas race was a blast. I thought it was a great race. Really tricky. Amazed there was not a single incident over 248 laps there.

“Here, Jeff Segal, our teammate, is really kind of like the Swiss Army driver. He’s so adept with data. He’s one of the top Ferrari driving coaches in the world. We’re lucky to have him. Provides us a lot of good feedback. We’re pretty well-prepared with notes.”

They’ll look to score a debut win or podium and add to other class wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, achieved in the last several years with separate teams. Bell and Sweedler won in Sebring in 2012, and the trio were part of a five-driver lineup that won in Daytona in 2014.