SF-born racer Townsend Bell driving toward a dream at Laguna Seca Raceway 

click to enlarge Townsend Bell decided to pursue his passion for racing at 21 years old. The journey led him to American Le Mans in Monterey, where he will race this week. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Townsend Bell decided to pursue his passion for racing at 21 years old. The journey led him to American Le Mans in Monterey, where he will race this week.

Townsend Bell isn’t much a fan of watching paint dry, or rather, the feeling of it.

That’s how the then 21-year-old felt while studying business economics at UC Santa Barbara. And it took being strapped into a race car at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey to leave that dreadful feeling in his rear view.

“I just decided I wanted to pursue something I was passionate about,” Bell, 37, said, recalling his racing school days at the 2.2-mile Monterey track, before going pro. “In a racing car, that’s where it all began.”

Bell’s paved journey began at Laguna Seca, and that’s where it will continue this Friday and Saturday as he’ll compete in the six-hour, third leg of the American Le Mans Series, a 10-race luxury sports car run spanning from March to October.

After placing first in his category at the opening Florida-based Twelve Hours of Sebring race in March, Bell and his team had a disastrous mid-April run in Long Beach. 

“We had an awful race,” Bell said of Long Beach. “We got hit on the start ... and the car was badly damaged and we limped around and finished last. So, we’ve seen both ends of the spectrum, and definitely prefer the sharper end of the grid.”

Recovered from the lumps he and his undersized Lotus Evora GT took in Southern California, the San Francisco-born, San Luis Obispo-raised Bell is looking to make a comeback on his home track.

“We’re a little guy trying to punch the bigger guys with V8’s,” Bell said, referring to his six-cylinder, six-speed sports car. “But right now, we’re kind of running our own race, frankly, just to develop our car. We’re still jump roping and hitting the speed bag, not necessarily in the ring swingin’ at anybody.”

Developed race car or not, Bell is many miles separated from that 12-year-old lad who “raced” at Redwood City’s Malibu Grand Prix, or even that “utterly broke” college student who dreamed of driving on slicks for a living.

But this weekend, while facing the vaunted G-Forces and corkscrew turn of the Monterey track, he and his co-pilot will be driving professionally. Though not without some help.

With Herbalife as his sponsor, Bell will be sipping Herbalife 24 via a tube on his helmet during the six-hour race. Herbalife 24 is a hydration electrolyte elixir provides 250 calories for every 16 ounces.

“I can’t crack open a Cliff bar on a pit stop and start mowing that down,” he said, without fear of using the restroom. “I’m a big perspirer, so it comes out through a thousand holes, not just one.”

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