Balfe Motorsport back in action at Silverstone
Caythorpe racing driver Shaun Balfe and team-mate Rob Bell battled home to eighth place at Silverstone in the latest round of the British GT Championship.
It was the first time the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 650S GT3 had raced since its accident at Rockingham, the duo having missed the last round at Snetterton.
Apart from an hour's test last Friday, two free practice sessions were all the team had to set the car up after its rebuild.
Their combined times gave them 10th on the starting grid, while in the team's GT4 McLaren 570S, Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson were 12th best of the 22 starters.
From the start of the three hour race, the longest in this year’s championship, Balfe settled initially in 12th before closing in on Jon Minshaw’s Lamborghini, for a duel that lasted for most of his opening stint.
“The car had been running hot, so I had to turn the power down, but really got fired up after I had contact with Jon at Stowe,” Balfe explained.
He briefly lost ground but came surging back to challenge for what had now becoming eighth, running side by side before tucking back in behind the Lamborghini. Minshaw was the first of the pair to pit, with Balfe a couple of laps later, having climbed to fifth.
With the first round of stops completed, Bell was still trying to break back into the top 10 as the first hour was completed, but was nine seconds short of Darren Turner’s 10th placed Aston Martin. Within a couple of laps, he was up to ninth and as more stops were made he gradually worked his way up and was eighth on lap 32, when Seb Morris’ Bentley charged by as Bell slowed for a yellow flag.
His progress took him to third before heading pitwards again on lap on lap 53. Balfe was back in for his second stint and was into ninth again as the second hour was completed, still chasing the Beechdean Aston Martin, with Andrew Howard having taken over from Turner.
Ninth became eighth by lap 58 and his progress saw him break into the top six a couple of laps later. With others making early final stops, Balfe came in from fourth, with Bell ready to do battle to the flag.
Having rejoined ninth yet again, Bell found himself ahead of Turner’s Aston Martin, but chasing Jonny Cocker’s Lamborghini.
With 30 minutes on the clock, Bell was more than 20 seconds adrift of Cocker, but over the remaining distance he lapped quicker than in qualifying and reduced the gap to only 6.087 seconds at the flag.
“It felt like a different car in the second half, it did what you wanted it to do,” said Bell after retaining a solid eighth.
“We got some real input from this weekend to prepare for Spa now,” Balfe added.
The weekend promise ended in disappointment for Johnson and Robinson in the GT4’s. Johnson had been in a clear fifth until he was hit and spun by another car.
But after rejoining seventh for his stint, Robinson carved his way through to lead the GT4 class overall, only for retirement after 56 laps.