MOTOR RACING: Grantham’s Balfe team take Red Bull by the horn in Austria

The Balfe McLaren heads the pack in a busy field of GT car exotica.
The Balfe McLaren heads the pack in a busy field of GT car exotica.

Shaun Balfe and Adam Carroll left the sunny mountainous landscape of the Red Bull Ring in Austria three points closer to the Championship lead in the International GT Open.

Grantham-based Shaun started the weekend hoping to consolidate his second place and was out first in the qualifying session for race one.

“The tyre window only allowed for one real opportunity and it was all over so quickly,” he said after taking fifth on the grid with a time set on his penultimate lap in the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 650S.

Only 1.2 seconds covered the top five, but more importantly Shaun had qualified ahead of the Lamborghini Huracan of Biagi and Crestani, the championship leaders.

“I got a really good start but the pole-sitting Ferrari had a problem, then Yacaman’s BMW got a run on him, but I was alongside and as the Ferrari rejoined, the BMW hit me and almost put me in the pitwall,” Shaun explained.

The incident dropped him to 10th but the offending BMW was given a drive through penalty. Progress was steady, however, and fortunately there was little damage from the contact.

When West made a mistake in the works McLaren, Shaun pounced for ninth and was matching rival Biagi who was only one place ahead.

As the pitstop window approached, Shaun headed in to hand over to Adam Carroll from sixth. “We changed tyres and refuelled as expected but found that one wheel had been damaged too in the start incident,” Shaun explained.

Adam was soon up to fifth with Benham, in another works McLaren, as his next target. But his rival ran out of brakes and so Monje’s BMW was the next target and nine laps later fourth became third.

Time was running out though and with only two laps remaining, the team took the flag in a well deserved third, only 1.5 seconds away from second man Jaeger’s Mercedes.

Roles were reversed for Sunday’s qualifying and it was Adam’s turn to set the time. “Adam spent the session bedding in new discs, as we were lucky to finish the first race with any,” Shaun explained.

But Adam’s time was third best and gave him a second row start for the afternoon’s race.

As the lights went out, he was straight into second place, holding a steady gap to Ramos’ lead BMW, but keeping an eye on Monje’s third-placed BMW too.

Adam had the lead just before Ramos made his stop, but pitted four laps later for his handover.

Balfe rejoined in fourth, but having lost out to Schothorst with five laps to go, he took the place back and spent the remaining laps harassing West for another podium place.

Shaun said: “The whole of the stint was 50/50 defending and attacking. Schothorst was quicker in parts and had a run on me when I ran wide. Then he went wide I came back, but he was still so close when I tried for third place. West was more careful though and didn’t repeat his race one mistake.

“A good weekend though, loved the circuit and the undulations, having been brought up on Cadwell Park.”