Following a challenging day, but after a great battle in his class, Townsend Bell made it home to third place in his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Bell shared the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari F458 Italia with longtime teammate Bill Sweedler and one of North America’s most experienced Ferrari drivers in Jeff Segal in the GTE-Am class.
In the Sunday morning to mid-afternoon hours, Bell was engaged in a titanic scrap for third place with Patrick Long in the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR.
The two mostly American entries were fighting over the final podium position, as both cars trailed the class-leading Aston Martin and eventual class-winning SMP Racing Ferrari.
Bell had a spin exiting Mulsanne corner when hunting down Long, but quickly resumed and got the car back going after a brief time loss. Segal brought the car home to the finish.
As it turned out, both the No. 77 Porsche and the Bell/Sweedler/Segal No. 62 Ferrari made the podium when the Aston crashed out in the final hour.
The result for Bell, also an NBCSN IndyCar and Red Bull Global Rallycross commentator, came after a whirlwind 24 hours that featured multiple potential setbacks, all of which the team rallied from.
The run to the Le Mans podium was anything but trouble-free, especially in the final six hours. The team was slowed by a broken starter and, while fighting locked in battle for the final podium position, an overheating engine.
Bell was locked into an exciting 40 minutes heavily broadcasted duel and only the engine concern made him backed off.
“It’s a great day for us,” said Bell. “There were so many obstacles in this race for us. So many times I thought that we were done because of penalties or mechanical issues but we never gave up and we never stopped believing that we could get here.
“The team deserves a huge congratulations. I mean, this is not only our first time here as drivers but our first time as a team coming together in this way and it’s pretty special to do that with a first time group. One thing I learned a long time ago is that the result can never be taken from you. We achieved it together, and it’s a special bond with those people forever.”
Bell and Sweedler add the Le Mans podium to class wins at Daytona and Sebring in those respective endurance classics.
Here’s a couple of Bell’s photos and tweets, posted in the moment on Sunday:
The result comes in the midst of a whirlwind few weeks for Bell, as he combines his commentary work with his sports car driving. He heads to Daytona Beach this week for commentary of the Red Bull GRC races, which will air live at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday on NBC.
As it turned out, with Ryan Briscoe’s withdrawal from the race due to his teammate Jan Magnussen’s mechanical-induced accident on Thursday, Bell was also the only driver this year to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans in the same year.
Further thoughts from Bell during the Le Mans week can be found here, via Road & Track.