Balfe Motorsport pair record second podium of the season
Balfe Motorsport's Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell recorded their second podium finish of the season, bringing their McLaren 720S GT3 home in a challenging second place in the British GT Championship at Donington Park.
After combining Balfe and Bell’s qualifying times, the pair lined up in third place for the two-hour race.
“Mine was a really busy session, very close on times, so a clean getaway at the start was vital. The car was fine,” said Caythorpe driver Balfe.
But Bell felt he could have done better. “I had a little excursion on my best lap,” he explained.
As the lights went out and the race got underway, Balfe retained third into Redgate behind Graham Davidson’s Aston Martin Vantage and Michael Igoe’s Lamborghini Huracan.
Balfe was quickly on the attack but Igoe had the initial moves covered, which allowed Oli Wilkinson’s Aston Martin to close.
Davidson began to extend his lead and as Igoe’s defence continued to hold, Wilkinson began to mount a challenge too.
By lap 16, however, Balfe had re-consolidated third and began to threaten Igoe again.
Balfe said: “The gap had been a bit of a yo-yo, so I had decided to wait until the tyres were worn, so long as Davidson was still in view.”
His plan worked when Igoe ran wide through Coppice on the 18th lap, allowing both Balfe and Wilkinson to go by on the run into the Esses.
Davidson’s lead started to come down as Balfe was now a clear second. The gap was just over three seconds as the time to pit for the driver change approached, but it was down to under half a second when the majority of the GT3 cars pitted on the same lap.
Bell rejoined with a 0.481sec gap over the lead car, now in Jonny Adam’s hands. But Adam’s team-mate Niki Thiim managed to split the pair and stayed there for the next 17 laps.
“I think the Astons had the legs on us still but with Thiim between us, it stopped me trying to maximise any mistake that Adam may make,” said Bell.
For a while, Bell look likely to challenge again, but with 10 minutes on the clock, the gap was still 1.248sec.
Over the remaining laps, the lead gap grew with Bell a solid second and 3.417secoff Davidson’s lead.
“We would have needed a really big opportunity to change the direction of this win,” Balfe added.
Graham Johnson started to make progress in the first of the team's GT4 McLaren 570Ss. He ousted the Ford Mustang of Sir Chris Hoy, but lost out to Sam Smelt’s similar car before the handover.
Michael O’Brien took over and spent his whole stint chasing down Michael Broadhusrt’s Mercedes AMG. The pair took eighth overall in GT4 and fourth in the Pro Am class.
Stewart Proctor started the second GT4 car and again made some early progress. With Mia Flewitt in for the second stint, they finished 15th in GT4 and fourth in the Pro Am class.
It is off to Spa Francorchamps for the next rounds of the championship on July 20/21.