BALFE TAKES HISTORIC 24-HOUR VICTORY AT SILVERSTONE Caythorpe sportscar star Shaun Balfe scored a sensational victory at the Britcar 24-hour race at Silverstone this weekend. The result means that the T. Balfe Executive Homes backed driver...
BALFE TAKES HISTORIC 24-HOUR VICTORY AT SILVERSTONE
Caythorpe sportscar star Shaun Balfe scored a sensational victory at the Britcar 24-hour race at Silverstone this weekend. The result means that the T. Balfe Executive Homes backed driver and his three team-mates go down in history as the winners of the first ever round-the-clock endurance event at the Grand Prix venue.
The hard fought victory came after Balfe had missed the opening free practice session, as the joint Balfe Motorsport/Rollcentre Racing team struggled to get the Mosler MT900R to pass the strict noise level test for the event.
The lack of practice meant that Shaun's first taste of the car and the meeting was in the only qualifying session. Balfe rose to the challenge, setting his best time on his first flying lap, which was good enough for the outright pole position.
A slightly less confidence inspiring session was night practice. A huge thunderstorm engulfed the circuit, leaving Balfe stranded out on the track in the car for over 20 minutes, as conditions were too dangerous to continue.
"It was a bit of shock to go out and take pole-position like that," explained Shaun afterwards. "It was the only lap I got that was free of traffic and I obviously beat all the other guys to it. It was certainly a great way to start the weekend, especially after missing free practice. The guys in the team did a great job of getting the car sorted," he added.
Incredibly wet conditions greeted the team for the start of the race and Le Mans racer and car owner Martin Short took the wheel for the opening stint.
Short dropped back down the order slightly in the opening laps. However, hard charges over the first few hours by Short and Balfe moved the car up into second place and just after midnight the team was into the lead.
However, it was not all plain sailing for Balfe as a quick half-spin nearly spelled disaster early into his opening drive.
"I was trying to get a feel for the conditions as it was still wet when I took over from Martin and the team kept me out right up to the end of my first fuel window as we were double stinting. I was so relieved to have slick tyres put on the car for the second half, but the safety car came out and I knew that it would have cooled the tyres," he said.
"I was in a bit of a hurry to going when the track went green again and I had a half spin as I went into Copse corner and ended up broadside on the track. Fortunately I was near the back of the queue and there weren't that many cars left behind me, otherwise I could have been hit."
As Balfe got some sleep, his team-mates, Jamie Derbyshire, Short and Nick Jacobs carried on with maintaining the lead, before it was time for Balfe to take to the wheel once again, just before dawn, when he set the fastest lap of the race up to that point in the cooler temperatures.
"It was a good run in the early morning, I was certainly able to push a lot harder than I had in my opening stint," said Shaun. "I was able to get into a rhythm a lot quicker and I set a handful of pretty quick laps and keep up the pressure on the chasing cars," he added.
As the clock ticked down Balfe was called upon to bring the car home, with one more double stint to the chequered flag and into the history books.
The whole team lined the pit-wall to cheer him across the line as they became the first ever team to take a 24-hour race win at Silverstone.
"Jamie put in a superb second stint after being unwell in the night, he was on it from the moment he left the pits and Martin put in some blistering laps to see what sort of fight the chasing Porsche had left before he handed the car over at the end. We certainly had our fair share of luck, but it is what is needed in races like this."
"It really is hard to describe what this means to us as a team and myself as a driver," said Shaun "This result means so much, to all of us. It's just incredible. The whole team worked so hard to give us a car that ran so well and all four of the drivers got our heads down and never let the pressure get to us. It's a special feeling to win a 24-hour race and it this is certainly one of my highest points in my racing career." he added.