Grantham area racing team Balfe Motorsport secure GT Open podium in France
It was a new venture for the Balfe Motorsport team this weekend, with the team returning to the International GT Open Championship at Circuit Paul Ricard near Marseilles armed with a brand-new Audi R8 LMS GT3.
A positive weekend it was too, with Shaun Balfe and Adam Carroll securing a dramatic third-place finish in the Pro-Am class on Saturday, before the latter claimed pole position for Sunday’s second race.
Following practice sessions on Thursday and Friday, where the team worked hard to adapt the #22 car to the long straights and rising track temperatures, qualifying on Saturday morning saw Shaun take to the circuit. The former series champion found gains by the lap, ultimately claiming seventh place in the class.
The new racing season got off to a slower than expected start with the Safety Car leading the field around for nearly 40-minutes due to incidents. This meant that Shaun had very little racing action - just three laps - before he pitted and handed over to his teammate.
With the field relatively compressed, Adam was able to make great gains in the final segment of the race, lapping at front-running pace and vaulting to sixth overall, third in the Pro-Am class by the chequered flag. It was a tremendous drive from the Pro-racer, delivering a great result in difficult circumstances.
Sunday morning brought the second round of qualifying and Adam was right on the pace from the green light, trading provisional pole position with his rivals, before taking the position on his very final lap.
Lining up on the pole position Sunday afternoon, Adam knew he was in for a challenge. While quick in qualifying and over a single lap, the top end speed was still not quite there on the long straights. With the field closely bunched heading into the first turn, he opted not to fight the fast-starting #77 Lechner Racing entry, and with momentum lost, dropped to fourth position overall.
The stint progressed, with the leading quartet pulling a margin on the cars behind. Indeed, by the mandatory pitstop, Adam was less than three seconds behind the race leader. Shaun took over but it was apparent that he wasn’t comfortable with the car, dropping off the pace before taking seventh position in the class.
While Sunday’s race didn’t go perfectly to plan, Saturday’s podium, followed by Sunday’s pole position, means that the team leave Paul Ricard with the knowledge that the team performed well, and that the R8 package will undoubtedly become a stronger contender as the season progresses.
Adam said: “It was a good run in the first race. It was a tricky start for Shaun having to deal with the safety cars, it’s not easy with the start-stop nature, but Shaun did a great job managing the situation.
"We had a good pitstop and driver change, the team did a great job, P3 and a podium was a great way to start our championship.”
Shaun added: “The pitstop was perfect and the crew have done a great job with the new car. The third position in Pro-Am was beyond my expectations this weekend, so we’re thrilled with the result.
"I didn’t make the best start to the race – maybe some cars were out of position, I’m not sure – but as ever Adam did a mega job. It’s my first GT3 race finish since Donington Park 2019 in British GT, so it’s good to knock off the rust with a result like this.”
Balfe Motorsport now turns its full attention to the opening round of the British GT Championship which takes place at Brands Hatch next weekend.