2018 Garagistic E30 Racing Championship
The 2018 season started off with high hopes, confidence and only 1 goal, to win the championship!
For several years I've wanted to join my brother and my dad as winners of the series. I've never had the funds to do a full season, but have always done reasonably well.
The year started as planned, winning the first round at Winton and then taking out second at Wakefield Park. From then on is where all the troubles started for me this year. In April I injured my back at work and was unable to walk properly, I was told that I couldn't drive a car or race for 3 months at a minimum. I lost all independence, which then led me to losing my job after nearly 5 years, but somehow with the help of my amazing family and friends, many doctors, physiotherapy and many appointments, I managed to only missed round 3 of the championship at Sandown. Luckily in the championship we are able to drop one round, this was it for me.
I finally got back in the car for the first time at a BMWDCM sprint day, only to get through 3 sessions before having to sit out the rest of the day from the pain. This was 2 weeks before my return to racing at Phillip Island for round 4, it was a huge step and achievement of how far I had come since the injury.
Round 4 was a massive struggle for me mentally and physically with the high loads and demands of racing, yet a big tick for moving forward and pursuing the goal which was still in the back of my mind! In trying conditions all weekend I managed 2nd for the round which was a huge achievement and success!
Round 5 was the big one, two 1 hour races at Winton, which included a driver change! With a month between events the body had a bit of time to improve again and although not all thatflash mentally and physically, Brett Dickie (my co-driver) and I managed to again bring the car home in 2nd for both races. After several minor issues throughout the weekend, we weren’t going to let anything stop us from putting the car on the podium again!
The sixth and final round came around pretty quickly on Melbourne Cup long weekend, finishing up again at Phillip Island with 3 races, including a 1 hour single driver endurance race to end the year.
We did the calculations and going into the weekend, all I had to do was finish fourth for the round and we would win the championship by 1 point. Friday practice was a typical day at the Island with heaps of rain but still some sunshine. Of course the sunshine only came out when we weren't on track but we managed to top the timesheets during the day and all was looking good. Saturday came, and we qualified fourth, then finished fourth and second in the 2 sprint races with some great battles all race with Cam Hudson! With the body struggling to cope, I was not looking forward to the final race of 1 hour Sunday morning.
I ran the season on an extremely tight budget and with a 3-yr. old engine that had been blowing smoke and down on power. We knew that the 1 hour race was going to push the engine but we gave it everything we had. Sunday morning's race came and we pushed hard for 55 minutes, holding down 3rd spot until the engine lost power, rattled and lost oil pressure. At this point I thought it was all over, I got on the radio to Dad and told him I didn't think I was going to finish. Dad encouraged me to keep going, I just needed to finish, we only had 5 minutes to go. "Just do what you can to get it across the line. Go as slow as you need" – Dad's encouragement kept me going. Somehow, I was 3/4s of a lap in front of the next few cars, so I limped the rattling car around for 2 laps hoping the engine would hold together to cross the line. These were the 2 longest laps I’ve ever done at Phillip Island and were probably the hardest of the year. Eventually on the last corner, my sister of all people, passed me and crossed the line just before I was able to, making the moment even sweeter. I HAD JUST WON THE 2018 CHAMPIONSHIP!!!! By a solitary point!!
Limping into the pits with a car and engine in about the same condition as my body was all made worth it when I saw so many of my close friends and family there all clapping, crying, popping party poppers and all dressed in t-shirts dedicated to me! A moment I will never forget for so many reasons!
There are lots of people that deserved to be thanked, but no more than my dad, Graeme Bell, this man has not only taught, encouraged and inspired me for as long as I can remember but continuously worked tirelessly to make sure I am happy on and off the track. To not only put my name on the championship trophy next to his and my brother, but to also do it in the same car he did it in 15 years ago was such an amazing achievement for me and a moment/year I’ll never forget.
For the rest of the family Jo, Jess, Sean, Jenna, Mum and Peter, I thank you for the endless love and support to get me through each day. I've been a big pain with my moods and having to rely on you all and you have all stuck by me and I couldn’t ask for a better family!
So many others have supported, encouraged and helped me through not only this years tough time, but through several years of racing and my life in general. Thank you Tania and Adrian Read, Stephen Mattingly, Brett Dickie, Joshie Williamson, Benny Grice, Jasmine Fraser, Michael Monshing, Anton Bergman, Alex Jory, Jesse Bryan, Cam Dawes, John Mina, Les Small and all the extended Bell Motorsport family!! Without everyone I wouldn’t be able to get up everyday, continue to have the strength to get better and still enjoy driving a race car and doing everyone proud.
There's so much more I could say and more people to thank but if your attention span is like mine at the moment, you will be sick of reading!
For me, this year was a success on the track but by far the toughest I’ve had personally, there is still a long road ahead for not only to be able to race at my best again but to also get my life back on track as well and hopefully when next season starts, we can be as good as ever and come back for a crack at back to back!!
Chris Bell | Member #6 - 2018 Garagistic E30 Racing Champion
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne