Caythorpe driver makes historic debut in Lotus Cortina at Donington
Shaun Balfe took time out of his British GT campaign to make his historic racing debut at Donington Park's Historic Festival last weekend.
The Caythorpe racer had tested his newly acquired Lotus Cortina for the first time on a track day at the Leicestershire circuit last Thursday, before qualifying on Friday and a race on the Saturday and Sunday,
"It was all very unfamiliar to me and then my qualifying session was cut short when the throttle cable broke; the pedal just went to the floor," he said.
Despite only managing five laps, he was still 14th best. "I was a few tenths off my testing time, otherwise I could have sneaked into the top 10 maybe, but it's still early days," he added.
In the first race, he lost a place on the opening lap before the safety car was called into action, but from the green flag the charge began. "Some of them seemed to get in a bit of a pickle, so I went through," Balfe said.
Having quickly snatched 12th, he was into 11th a lap later, then held station while the compulsory pit stops began.
He was one of the later stoppers, but from rejoining was straight into a duel with Graham Pattle's similar car.
Having grabbed ninth on lap 16, his next target was Martin Strommen's Cortina, duly dispatched four laps later for eighth place.
Although he took the flag in eighth still, two of the cars finishing ahead were penalised for various infringements, which promoted him to sixth in the confirmed result. "I had still been unsure about my pace with so little qualifying, but think that eighth was a fair reflection," Balfe said.
The positions from race one formed the grid for race two, which saw Balfe straight into a duel for fifth with Nick Swift's Mini Cooper S.
Although he got the place a lap later, his next target was well clear, before he found himself being caught and demoted back to seventh by the Minis of Tom Bell and Swift. "I had expected to struggle starting so far up and they just wound me back in again," Balfe explained.
Having pitted earlier than in the first race, he rejoined in seventh again and held station throughout the second half. But when post-race penalties were given, he found himself promoted to sixth again
Balfe concluded: "I decided to pit early to get some fresh air, but overall I feel it was a good stage of learning the car, but lots to come and I need more testing to get near to the sharp end."