Racecraft honed in the Pro 7 series for Mazda RX7s has served North Canterbury’s Eddie Bell well in his first season of Tier 1 racing where he leads the inaugural Mini Challenge.
Eddie Bell sets Mini Challenge pace
February 28, 2007, 4.45pm. Eddie Bell of Woodend in North Canterbury has overcome the odds to lead the Mini Challenge Series as it heads to two circuits he knows well over the next two weekends, Timaru and Teretonga.
Bell (32) was a last minute addition to the series, just managing to put together a budget when David Arrowsmith of ESWA Radiant Heating came on board just three weeks before the season-opener at Pukekohe last November.
Bell says he was determined to have "one good crack at a Tier 1 New Zealand motor racing championship."
Arriving at Pukekohe completely unheralded, he’s been the man to beat in the hard-fought series, and has finished either first or second in eight of the 12 races.
Bell took a commanding points lead to the most recent round at Manfeild, then won the first race there, his third victory of the series. However in the next race his car was damaged, forcing him out and leaving him near the back of the grid for the subsequent races.
After competing in moto cross as a schoolboy Bell tried karting, eventually being taken under the wing of multiple New Zealand karting champion John Hamilton.
In his last three and a half years in karting Bell won 16 championships before setting his sights on cars.
His opportunity came when he funded himself into a co-drive with Michael Thom in a Holden Commodore NZ V8 in the 2002 Yellow Pages 500 endurance race at Ruapuna.
Starting 10th, Bell worked his way through the field despite a clutch problem, and led the last 20 minutes of his stint.
Bell then spent several years trying to get support for another campaign without success until he turned his attention to Pro 7s, a more affordable, tightly-controlled class for Mazda RX7s.
Beaten in his first attempt at the national title he bounced back to win 17 of 21 races in the South Island Series the following year, breaking the lap record at every circuit.
His national title hopes were undone at the North Island round when fuel problems slowed him. Though he won the South Island leg of the title chase the damage had been done.
At a loose end for the next season, he borrowed his father-in-law's Pro 7 for the New Zealand final at Pukekohe and won it, qualifying second, winning all three races and breaking the lap record.
Bell decided to mount another challenge for the 2007 NZ Pro 7 title, at Taupo just two weeks before the Mini Challenge series round at the central North Island track.
He qualified second, broke the lap record and won all three races to take the title. Two weeks later he returned to win the Mini Challenge round at Taupo.
"It's not just all about the driver," says Bell. "I've always been supported by good people, John Hamilton in karts, Steve Sinclair in Pro 7s and with the Mini I enjoy excellent support from some top motorsport people and family."
Bell heads to the South Island rounds hoping to hold the championship lead and go to the final round at Pukekohe with a chance of winning the title.
"It won't be easy," he says. "But Timaru is like a second home to me. Powerbuilt Raceway in Christchurch is the only track where I have done more laps."
Bell says his motorsport aspirations have been hampered constantly by a shortage of money.
"The (Mini Challenge) campaign is a huge personal financial commitment. That adds to the motivation to do the best I can."
Photo caption: Eddie Bell in his Mini at Manfeild. Lindsay Beer PR/Graham Blow.