Fulbeck motor racing team take one-two in Abu Dhabi
Following their race-winning end to the British GT Championship, Fulbeck’s Balfe Motorsport journeyed to Abu Dhabi last week and came away with first and second place in the Gulf 12-hour at the Yas Marina resort.
Taking two of the GT4 McLaren 570s, the team had amateur drivers from the Pure McLaren Series, paired with the Professionals who have been their season-long coaches.
Pro drivers Ollie Millroy and Josh Cook took the cars out in the first qualifying session, before handing to the Amateurs, but it was down to Mia Flewit and Nick Moss to start the race, which although 12 hours, was split into two six hour stints.
Although Brand Racing’s BMW M4 led after the first hour, the Balfe cars were in second and third and only 18 seconds off the lead.
Moss shared the first six hours with fellow Am Brendan Iribe, while Flewitt was partnered by Issam Charrouf in the second car.
“We had planned all along to start with the Ams and just put the Pros in at the end, but we didn’t need to and the Ams did it all,” said team manager Chris Moore.
Team principal David Balfe emphasised to the drivers in his pre-race chat that the aim was to finish. “These cars haven’t been renowned for long distance success, but we want to prove them wrong,” he said in true Churchillian style.
They could not have finished part one any better, as the Moss/Iribe car had the lead, with 28 seconds in hand over Flewitt/Charrouf, both having a lap on the third placed SVG Mercedes.
Although Moss and Flewitt started the second half too, the pros got their turn later, with James Pickford, Moss’s coach, out racing for the first time in 10 years.
“We were secondary as it was all about the Ams. I did one stint but it was great to be part of such a successful weekend, with such a well organised team,” said Pickford.
But there was slight concern at the start of part two when Flewitt was hit from behind by the Appleby Engineering Aston Martin Vantage.
“She tried to radio in but we didn’t get the message, then we saw the damage to the rear diffuser and sparks from the exhaust, but it didn’t affect the performance,” Moore added.
Moss, Iribe, Pickford and Millroy topped the leaderboard at the end of the seventh and eighth hour, with the SVG Mercedes continuing to be the main threat.
“We had a gap and just had to manage it, we didn’t have to push too hard and the Ams looked after the cars, kept off the kerbs and did a briliant job, before Ollie took the flag, flashing his lights for a brilliant win,” Pickford added.
With the Mercedes team having made an error in their pit stop strategy, they were forced to make an extra stop, which meant they were out of the running and it was a clear one-two for the Balfe team and the conclusion to a fantastic weekend.
“The pit crew, the engineers and strategy were magnificent. Twenty-one pit stops and all on time and no issues. There aren’t many races where you can look back and think there’s nothing we could have done better.
"It wasn’t only a challenge for the Ams, but for the whole Balfe Motorsport team as it was our debut in real endurance racing. I was so proud of all the boys, they delivered and it now shows the level we are at.
"Everyone proved themselves and with all the support from McLaren too, just great,” Moore concluded.