After an exciting British GT Championship race at Spa-Francorchamps, Graham Johnson and Michael O’Brien took an excellent victory for Balfe Motorsport.
The pair made up an exceptional 16 places in total to take the Pro-Am win, as well as finishing fourth overall in GT4.
The team’s McLaren 720S GT3, piloted by Rob Bell and Shaun Balfe, crossed the line fourth after a long battle for second place, whilst Am pairing Mia Flewitt and Stewart Proctor had a clean race and finished 18th in GT4.
Graham had a solid start to the race after a disappointing qualifying session and swiftly made up places, handing over to Michael in second place in GT4 Pro-Am. Getting past the #11 Aston Martin for first in Pro-Am, for the remainder of the two-hour contest he kept out of trouble, taking the win.
In GT3, Shaun immediately found himself fighting for positions and by lap three was already into sixth place. With competitive pace, he continued to push and eventually battled his way past Michael Igoe’s Lamborghini for fourth.
Rob made his way into third early in his stint before reeling in Glynn Geddie’s ahead. With the Bentley driver holding his place, Callum MacLeod also caught the pair, leading to a jaw-dropping moment when the three cars went into Eau Rouge side-by-side, with MacLeod coming out ahead.
He continued to fight with Geddie for the final podium place on the last lap but was unlucky to spin on fluid at the final corner, crossing the line in fourth position.
Mia started the race in the second 570S GT4 and made strong progress through the GT4 pack before handing over to Stewart in 16th place. After a clean pit-stop by the team, Stewart headed out for the final hour of the race. Making no mistakes the duo claimed 18th in GT4, mixing with both Pro-Am and Silver class competitors.
Balfe Motorsport will be at the Silverstone Classic next weekend (July 27/28) as Shaun will compete in the Transatlantic Trophy for Pre ’66 Touring Cars in his Lotus Cortina. A week after that the team will be at the penultimate round of the British GT Championship season at Brands Hatch (August 3/4).
“It was certainly an exciting race! Considering we qualified eleventh and got up to third pretty early on in it was going really well, but, unfortunately, we couldn’t quite convert third place, though it wasn’t without trying! We definitely brought something to the party and demonstrated the McLaren in a good light again and that’s what it’s about.
“Obviously, I’m a bit disappointed we aren’t on the podium, but I can’t deny it wasn’t exciting and of course I’m really pleased for Graham and Michael and we almost got the triple headline of first in Pro-Am GT3, Pro-Am GT4 and Am-Am GT4! It was the one that got away today but hopefully we can grab it at Brands Hatch in two weeks.”
“We made a few changes to the car after the practice sessions which we were happy with going into qualifying, but then it chucked it down so that threw our plans out the window. Shaun did a brilliant job to get to where he did and put all his effort into his stint.
“When I got in I had a big battle for second. I thought I had the Bentley but then the Mercedes got involved and I just lost the edge, but that’s racing at the end of the day. Overall to go from 11th to fourth in such a competitive series was a good result.”
“It’s great to bounce back after the last few weekends to take the Pro-Am win and fourth overall. To get such a great result after a few problems we had as a team is brilliant. I am relieved and happy with how quick I was especially as I was held up for a long time by a few cars, but once we got past it was a calm and controlled race.”
“It was a really up and down weekend. We were first in practice and the car felt good but in qualifying we didn’t get everything quite right. Hands up, I made a mistake which ultimately cost us, so the session was a bit of a could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. Graham’s stint was mega in the race, so I just had to maintain that and continue with the strong pace we had. It was a great race and a lot of fun.”
“Qualifying went ok; it was one of those mixed sessions where you needed intermediate tyres, but we didn’t have any of those! We didn’t feel very comfortable with the car after free practice one so once we’d sorted those issues the overall pace was a lot better. I had a super race and past many cars. I do this for fun and I really enjoyed myself. The car is in one piece as are we, so it’s been brilliant.”
I’m pleased with our race. Mia did a great stint and it was a really enjoyable drive with no mistakes. After the team made a change to the car after the first free practice session, we felt much happier. Qualifying was pretty tricky due to the conditions, but I think we did well. Overall, I am extremely pleased with our results: three starts and three finishes is exactly what we wanted. I’d love to come back and do some more racing; I don’t want this to be the last one.”