Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell secured second place for Balfe Motorsport at its home British GT Championship race at Donington Park over the weekend (June 22/23).
After a difficult ‘what could have been’ event at Silverstone last time out, Shaun and Rob took their second podium in the McLaren 720S GT3 after a gruelling battle for the lead throughout the two-hour contest.
It was a tough weekend for the full-season 570S GT4 piloted by Pro-Am pairing Graham Johnson and Michael O’Brien as they suffered another case of bad luck, but the duo still finished just outside the podium places. However, the GT4 Am pairing of Mia Flewitt and Stewart Proctor claimed a solid 15th in class and were well inside the top ten of the Pro-Am competitors as well.
Starting from the second row of the grid, Shaun had a great start and immediately was in a battle for second place. Fastest on track in the first 30 minutes, Shaun took second place after a superb move on the WPI Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 before handing over to Rob on the hour.
With a clean, quick pit-stop thanks to the team, Rob was quickly into an intense fight for the lead. The McLaren Factory driver put constant pressure on Jonny Adam, despite also having to fend with Scot’s team-mate Nikki Thiim who was a lap down, but eventually crossed the line in an excellent second position.
Despite brake problems earlier on in the weekend Graham and Michael had hoped for a better race than Silverstone after refuelling problems during their pit stop. Starting from fourth in GT4 Pro-Am, Graham gained a number of positions in the opening lap and challenging for the class lead before handing over to Michael.
Unfortunately, although the refuelling procedure had changed since Silverstone a new problem caused a set-back for the team. Michael worked hard as he challenged for the podium in his stint but took fourth in class at the flag.
Mia and Stewart showed competitive pace throughout the weekend, just their second appearance in the championship. Stewart had a controlled start before making his way up the order. After the pit stop, Mia did well to fend off the Pro and Silver drivers around her, taking first in the GT4 Am class and 15th of the 25 entrants.
Next up for Balfe Motorsport will be a trip to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, on July 20-21 where the entire team will hope for further podium success.
“We were close to feeling what winning might have felt like at Silverstone and came to Donington with the right foot forward and again almost felt what a win would be like. I think because we’ve been so close twice now there is a hunger to get on that top step. In all honesty the Aston was just a little bit too quick for us this weekend, but we were definitely the second-best car on track. Spa is an incredible circuit and I think the car will suit that track well, but I also think we need a little bit of help with the BoP [Balance of Performance] without sounding too predictable!”
“Second place in a Championship like this is hard to achieve and we shouldn’t underestimate that. To actually be involved with the development of the 720S GT3 all the way through its evolution and to get to where we are now is a proud moment. There is disappointment because we were so close to the win and it was a bit of a strange end battling with Jonny and Nikki, but we enjoyed it and it’s a great result. Spa is the next race, so let’s see how we go but I’m sure we’ll be back in the mix again.”
“It was a difficult weekend. The problems we experienced in both free practice sessions didn’t help and then the refuelling issue in the race meant we lost 34 seconds. If it wasn’t for that we would have finished fourth overall and first in class by a country mile so it’s frustrating. It would be nice to have a better BoP for Spa as we haven’t had a good one since Snetterton and hopefully we’ll have a better result there.”
“It’s been another tough weekend. We didn’t have any productive running during the free practice sessions so went into qualifying blind. We didn’t even know if we were going to qualify at one point, but I think we both did ok in our sessions considering all the issues we’d had. In the race Graham made a good start like he always does, made up some positions, and it all looked like we were actually going to end up in a good position, but we lost time in the pits like Silverstone and that cost us. We could have easily taken the class win so we just have to focus on the next event at Spa.”
“I’m really pleased with the result. Between Mia and I we didn’t make too many mistakes and had consistent lap times throughout the weekend. This result sets us up nicely for Spa and I think if we can replay today’s results, we will be happy. It’s more of a challenge at Spa but again it will be a brilliant learning curve. This weekend was difficult as there was so much traffic so the other good thing about Spa is that it’s a bigger circuit so we shouldn’t have that problem. I enjoy racing there and we’re both looking forward to it.”
“Everything went really well this weekend. We both felt we knew how things worked this time out and it was great fun, in particular I had a good time battling with the Pro drivers in my stint as it is good to test yourself against the best and we matched a lot of them which is encouraging. We’ve both definitely improved from Silverstone and hopefully Stewart and I can find even more pace and get another great result when we head to Spa in a month’s time.”