Race- and Championship-winning outfit Balfe Motorsport enjoyed a successful British GT Championship outing at Snetterton last weekend (May 18/19) as it took two podium finishes, including the first for the McLaren 720S GT3, and another for the 570S GT4.
GT3 duo Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell bounced back from disappointment in race one, where they were forced into retirement, to take third in race two, while GT4 pair Graham Johnson and Michael O’Brien claimed third place in Pro-Am in race one and finished the weekend just two points off the championship lead.
Starting race one in the 720S GT3, Shaun was well-placed amongst the front-runners, maintaining sixth position before handing over to Rob when the pit window opened. He was quickly into a battle for what would be second place, but when a rival passed a GT4 backmarker as the group went into the first corner, it was forced into Rob who had to retire with damage.
After excellent work by the team to repair the car, Rob started race two well before Shaun made up two places during the final half-hour of the contest to record the team and car’s first podium finish of the season, crossing the line in third position.
Graham was able to showcase both his and the McLaren 570S GT4s pace during race one as he gained an impressive six places overall in GT4 on the opening lap. After the pit stop, Michael took over and continued to put in a strong performance, bringing the car home for a third-straight class podium finish.
The McLaren Driver Development Programme member made a good start to race two, putting the pair in contention for an overall GT4 podium, but unfortunately Graham was given a late stop-go penalty for contact with a fellow competitor, dropping the pair to fifth in Pro-Am.
Next up for the team is the challenging three-hour Silverstone 500, on June 8/9.
“Qualifying didn’t quite go to plan, but Rob did a fantastic job so fair play to him. I think we’ve got a little bit of set up to work on. Race-wise, Rob was unlucky in race one; he was looking really strong but again these things happen. I’m really pleased I could deliver a result for the team, McLaren, everyone that’s put the hard work in, and put all of us on the map for British GT now. Although it’s been a weekend of mixed fortunes, I think we’ve demonstrated some good pace. Now I can’t wait for Silverstone!”
“I don’t think we had the ultimate pace to challenge for pole but as a combination we were pretty close to that in the second race. The first race was a bit disappointing. Obviously we were third before getting tagged which was a bit of a racing incident I think, however we’ve made up for it in race two getting the McLaren 720S GT3s first UK podium, so we are happy. I’m looking forward to Silverstone. We need to work on a little bit of pace, and we should be in the mix.”
“I didn’t drive my best in qualifying, but race one went very well ending with a podium. Race two could have been awesome, Michael did a good job, but I don’t think I showed enough respect to the Jaguar. I jumped down the inside hoping he’d move out my way and he didn’t, so that’s where the contact came from. I threw away a good result and I’m sorry to the team. We had the pace to take the win, but the car was pretty damaged after the contact. Michael hasn’t had his first win in British GT yet and I’ve promised him we will get one this year, so I’m determined to get him the credit he deserves as he’s such a talent.”
“Qualifying was certainly better than Oulton Park. Graham made a mega start in race one and got the car from 18th to 11th on lap one which was really good, and to finish seventh in GT4 and third in Pro-Am was a good start to the weekend. Race two started well again, we were up to fourth, made our pit stop, and came out in second overall in GT4 but got a penalty for contact which set us back slightly. Overall, it’s been a much better weekend. I know Silverstone really well and it should suit our car, so I’m hoping for better things there.”