BALFE MOTORSPORT GOES FIA GT1 IN 2006
The Balfe Motorsport Team will graduate to the GT1 class of the FIA GT Championship next season, after taking delivery of one of the RML built Saleen S7R chassis from Mike Newton. Shaun Balfe will be one of the drivers with the second seat in the car yet to be filled.
The team has been contemplating which step up to take after three incredibly successful seasons running the Mosler MT900R in Britain, Spain and across the rest of Europe. As the closest challenger to the works Gruppe M Porsches in the GT2 class of the FIA series in 2005, the Balfe squad will once again be in familiar territory chasing down works backed efforts and it has high hopes to make the Saleen a competitive force in the top tier.
Other possible options of moving to a higher class in 2006 included an acclimatizing test in a Courage LMP2 car at Le Mans in early November. After a careful evaluation the team decided on sticking with the GT route and the initial plan for a full season entry in the FIA GT series was taken.
"It's been a tough few months making the decisions to move to GT1," said Shaun Balfe. "We had an incredible debut season in the FIA GT Championship with the Mosler this year. The organisers were helpful and we were made to feel really welcome. However, in return, we like to compete and present ourselves at the highest level and the FIA GT Championship allows us to do this," he added.
"Whatever we chose for next year, we wanted to move forward. To score points is a must for me and it's also what the team wants to do too. Certainly, the move into GT1 will be tough. But, it's what we as a team at Balfe Motorsport have always enjoyed."
The battle for the title this year has proved that the level of competition is incredibly fierce. As a driver Balfe admits that he is relishing the challenge of the GT1 class. From a team perspective though, he knows that it will be a tough challenge in 2006.
"We know everyone in the team is revved up for next season," he said. "From a driving point of view it will add a little bit more pressure, from factory Porsche drivers to former Grand Prix drivers, it's a tough call either way, isn't it!" he joked. "The whole team will be aiming to push as hard as they have for the last three years and as long as we prepare the car properly and go about everything in the same way it always has and so long as we stick to what we know the job will be done properly and we shall see the results.," he added.
The team has already taken delivery of the car and plan on a small test to allow Balfe to reacquaint himself to a GT1 machine before a complete rebuild over the winter months.