Balfe is quickest in class in his classic Lotus Cortina at Spa
It was a successful weekend at Spa Francorchamps for Caythorpe driver Shaun Balfe in the U2TC Historic Saloon Cars Championship.
With the focus on his British GT McLaren programme, Balfe has had limited opportunities to relish the historic scene in his Lotus Cortina this season.
But having contested the Spa Classic meeting in 2018, it was a successful return.
Although his class was combined with a new class of Saloon Cars, he was still 21st overall from the 44 car grid, and comfortably quickest in his class.
“It was dry for qualifying, but was red flagged early so we didn’t have much time,” he said.
He made two places overall on the opening lap and continued to climb the order until the mandatory pit stop was made after four laps.
“I pitted early as the track was damp but drying, but that had helped me stay with the Capris and the like,” Balfe explained.
With Spa having such a long lap, the whole race was only nine laps. But after the stops Balfe progressed one position each tour until he found himself a remarkable 13th overall as they started the last lap.
But a considerably newer Ford Capri and Rover SD1 eased him out before the flag, but he still secured 15th overall and won his class by massive 24 seconds over the Tom Bell and Joe Ferguson Mini.
“As it had dried out the newer cars were able to use their power advantage towards the end, so the cars I passed earlier were now passing me,” he said.
There were only five starters in the class for race two, but with four places gained on the first lap again, Balfe was still a match for many of the newer cars. “I got swamped by a lot of them at the start as it was dry and then just isolated showers,” he said.
After his tremendous start, the newer cars started to find their pace and came back to challenge. He led the class again but was passed by the Bell/Ferguson Mini.
But after his stop he was back up to 21st overall, until Julian Thomas/Callum Lockie’s Sierra Cosworth shot by.
But Balfe still saw off a Rover SD1 on the last lap to claim 19th overall but was second on the road in his class to the Mini, which then picked up two track limit penalties which put them back to second and handed Balfe his second win.
Having had a brief rest from the second Saloon Car race, it was time to join Andy Wolfe and Lotus Elan owner Graham Wilson for the annual Historic Six Hour race. Balfe had shared the car with a different driver line-up last year and took a class win.
With 101 starters, to qualify 26th overall and fourth in class was already an achievement and only 1.301sec off pole position. “Andy set the time, but I had three laps in the car and was up my target on one lap, but hit traffic which didn’t go in my favour, so I focused on preserving the car,” he said.
Having taken the opening stint, Balfe made a flying start to carve his way through the order, not only into the class lead but 10th overall by lap 23.
His charge continued and nine laps later he was seventh and building on his class lead. “My opening stint was for 2 ½ hours and having got into the top 10 we were looking for some giant killing,” he explained.
“We had trouble though and I pitted when the starter motor fell off, but then the gearbox went. Although Graham, the car's owner, went out again, he was stuck in gear and had to retire,” Balfe added.
They were classified 80th overall and 10th in their class still.
More by this authorJohn Burgess