Balfe Motorsport pair wrap up championship with a round in hand
It has never been their season-long objective, but at the British GT Oulton Park double-header at the weekend, Balfe Motorsport's Stewart and Lewis Proctor wrapped up the GT3 Silver-Am Championship with a round in hand.
The number five GT3 pairing are naturally happy with the accolade, but rather compare themselves against the bulk of the Pro-Am Championship contenders and at Oulton Park, that was quite a battle up and down the field.
The team tested the McLaren 720S GT3 with Stewart and Lewis, as well as the promising young paring of Jack Brown and Ashley Marshall in the 570S GT4, ahead of the event on Friday, putting in a good number of laps, but a little frustrated to lose the final session due to heavy rain.
Saturday saw both sides of the garage run through various programmes in practice ahead of the four short qualifying runs that would set the grid for Sunday’s two one-hour races.
Stewart was first out in the GT3, ultimately qualifying in 11th position before Lewis saved his very best until his final lap to record the ninth fastest time.
The GT4 pairing of Ashley and Jack were next out and, once again, they were incredibly closely matched, this time just 0.052sec between them around the 2.692-mile circuit.
Sunday’s first race saw Stewart run in 10th position early on, fending off the number seven Aston Martin of Andrew Howard throughout his stint before pitting ninth on lap 14. Lewis jumped in and found himself up to sixth position a few laps later, holding off the challenge initially from Phil Keen in the WPI entry.
The Lamborghini, however, was inherently quicker at Oulton Park, with Keen and then Sandy Mitchel able to gain position. Now in eighth, Lewis withstood a late-race challenge from Jonny Adam in the number seven to take the chequered flag.
A mild drizzle soon turned into proper rain, with the evening race subsequently declared wet. Lewis started and was soon embroiled in a stint long battle with Sam Neary in the number eight Team Abba entry. A safety car on lap 12 ensured that all of the GT3 runners pitted immediately.
Stewart soon found himself sandwiched in a three-way battle for seventh, eighth and ninth, chasing down the number 77 of Morgan Tillbrook, whilst keeping Howard at bay. With rain falling hard, the chequered flag was a welcome sight on lap 29 and with it eighth position and second in the Silver-Am class.
For Ashley Marshall and Jack Brown, the first race was one to forget with the latter taken out by Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke in the number nine BMW. The second race was not trouble-free either with Jack starting a class seventh, showing good pace to shadow the number three of Alain Valente before pitting under the safety car. Ashley jumped in, but an error in communications cost the team valuable time in the pits, and the advantage they expected to gain vanished.
Ashley resumed in eighth place, chasing the number 61 Mustang ahead and at one point so nearly gaining the position exiting the first turn. With other GT4 runners hitting trouble in the rain, this soon became a battle for the final step on the podium, but on this occasion he had to settle for fourth place.
The team now prepare for the final rounds of the GT Cup Championship as well as the British GT season finale which take place at Donington Park on October 16 and 17.