Balfe records first 'historic' victory in AC Cobra
Caythorpe racing driver Shaun Balfe enjoyed a surprise win at Brands Hatch last weekend.
After being invited to share Andy Wolfe’s AC Cobra in testing for the Masters Historic weekend, he was asked to share the car with Wolfe in the Gentleman Drivers Pre ’65 GT race.
Balfe said: “I had tested in the morning and Andy reckoned I had got on OK, so asked me about driving in the race over lunch.”
With regular driver Michael Gans unavailable, Balfe was an obvious to choice to join Wolfe in Saturday’s race, as he had recently made his overall Historic debut at Donington Park in a Lotus Cortina built by Wolfe.
The duo set the pace in qualifying and started from pole, having pipped Mike Whittaker’s TVR Griffith by 0.705sec.
“It was my first time on the Brands Grand Prix circuit for five years. I went out first on a drying track, but made sure I was handing to Andy when it was dry, so he could set a time,” Balfe added. “I was quite nervous as the Cobra was a real man’s car, a real weapon.”
Balfe was nominated to start the race and managed to turn their pole position into a first lap lead. But as Whittaker mounted his challenge, he was forced to surrender his advantage on the second lap.
“Andy hadn’t mentioned about me starting, especially from pole position, with such little experience of the car,” Balfe explained,
Once ahead, Whittaker’s lead continued to grow. By lap nine it was more than 11 seconds and it grew to 24 by the time the pitstop window opened and the driver changes started.
Although Balfe could not match Whittaker’s pace, he consolidated his hold on second, handing over to Wolfe with 25 laps gone. He said: “I was surprised I could hold P2, but just couldn’t match that lead pace. There was an awful lot of difference in pace out there and I was very cautious in traffic and how I dealt with it. The Cobra had the advantage on the straights with its power.”
Whittaker had resumed his advantage after the stops and, unlike Balfe and Wolfe, was running solo. But a slight off proved critical for the TVR driver and, having suffered brake problems, his exhaust also came loose.
The warning flag was then displayed for the leader and, having started the 39th lap with a 12.4sec deficit, Wolfe finished it 33 seconds up on new second man John Spiers in another TVR Griffith.
The lead began to grow and although Whittaker recovered second, Wolfe finally took the flag with a massive 50 seconds advantage to share the victory champagne with Balfe – a first win in historic racing for the British GT racer.
Balfe said: “I went into the weekend open minded, but Andy made me feel very r
"When I had done my stint I was relieved, as it had been very physical with such a powerful car. I was pleased to bring it in P2 and the win was a real bonus.”
It is now back to modern machinery though for Balfe who will be racing his British GT McLaren at Silverstone this weekend.
However, he has some more historic races lined up for his Lotus Cortina.