Balfe Motorsport duo secure third place in GT Cup Championship
The curtain came down on the GT Cup Championship on Sunday evening following a successful debut year for Fulbeck-based Balfe Motorsport and its number 90 GTH pairing of Mike Price and Callum MacLeod, securing third position in the title race in their McLaren 570S GT4, off the back of 10 podiums from 24 starts.
While it was a great season of racing, it was a bitter-sweet end for the team and drivers at Snetterton with two runner-up positions on Saturday, followed on Sunday by a DNF, a race against time to repair the car, and a fifth to cap off the season.
The opening race of the weekend was expected to be dry, but ahead of the green flag lap the rain started to fall and the 25-minute Sprint was declared wet.
Mike was happy in such conditions in the Friday morning testing and the race was no exception. Starting fourth, he slotted in behind the number 26 McLaren of Moh Ritson, but the battle of the race was with the number 82 of James Guess for the second spot.
It was not an easy pass, but after running side-by-side for a few corners, Mike was able to complete the move. Moments later, the Aston Martin spun out of contention and Mike fended off the number 44 of Steve Rushton to claim second position by a 10th of second.
The Saturday Pitstop was severely compromised by wet conditions, with Mike starting fourth and maintaining his position around the opening lap, ahead of the first safety car period. There was another brief attempt to race before a second caution period which allowed Callum to jump in the car under yellow.
This became second as he exited the pits and shortly after the red flags flew and the race result declared, unfortunately, a lap shy of 75 per cent distance, meaning that only half points were rewarded, while a full success penalty of 15-seconds was given for Sunday’s final race.
While second place was a decent result, the team and drivers felt that they should have been able to compete in the rain and that conditions were perfectly manageable.
The final day of the championship was more dramatic than anyone would have hoped for. It all started in the Sprint race with Mike lining up in fourth and racing away to a scheduled 25-minute of racing.
The run to turn two, however, saw the number 41 Stanbridge Motorsport Lamborghini put a left wheel on the grass and then rotated into the side of Mike. The impact was significant, pushing Mike head first into the barriers. He was able to return to the pits with front and left-hand side damage to the team's McLaren.
With a loaned door fitted and front end damage repaired as well as could be in the time frame, Mike and Callum were able to take part in the final race of the season, but starting last (race laps from the Sprint determine the grid position for the Pitstop race), combined with a 15-second success penalty, dashed any hopes of retaining second in the GTH standings.
Even starting the race, however, guaranteed third place and fifth position was the final reward, following impressive racing from both Mike and Callum.
The team now prepare for the final rounds of both the Intelligent Money British GT Championship and International GT Open.
Mike said: “The immediate emotions were those of disappointment. The events at Donington had robbed us of a chance of coming first class champions. At Snetterton this weekend, being denied second place by aspects beyond our control – it was gutting and such cruel luck.
“After some quiet reflection though, we really must celebrate our third place which – in hindsight – was not our realistic ambitions when entering GT Cup for the first time. We not only came third of 12 full championship entries, but also took ten podium places, including two wins and 20 race finishes.
"If someone had offered me that haul pre-season, I would have pulled their arm off.
“My sincere thanks to all at Balfe Motorsport for their fantastic support and commitment, and special thanks to Mark Wynne for his engineering prowess and to Callum for his exceptional coaching and brilliant driving. Bring on 2022.”