BALFE LINES UP DERBYSHIRE AND CUNNINGHAM FOR GT1 ASSAULT The Balfe Motorsport team has signed Jamie Derbyshire and Neil Cunningham to partner Shaun Balfe in its Saleen S7R in the FIA GT championship. The addition of New Zealander ...
BALFE LINES UP DERBYSHIRE AND CUNNINGHAM FOR GT1 ASSAULT
The Balfe Motorsport team has signed Jamie Derbyshire and Neil Cunningham to partner Shaun Balfe in its Saleen S7R in the FIA GT championship.
The addition of New Zealander Cunningham to the squad strengthens an already rock solid partnership between Balfe and Derbyshire, who pushed the works supported Porsches in GT2 last season, on the way to four victories in the G2 class in the Mosler MT900R.
"We're pleased to have a strong line-up for the jump into GT1," said Shaun Balfe. "Jamie obviously has a tremendously successful and long standing relationship with the Balfe team and it's great that he is continuing with us as we move up this year. I know that he can't wait to get in the car and get to grips with it,"
"Neil approached us and is backed by Jonathan France from Embassy Racing. We were keen to do something with Neil as he and my father David go back a long way. Jamie and I have also been in British GT racing with him, so we know how committed he is to whatever he is driving," he added.
Cunningham comes to the team after two seasons with Embassy Racing in the British GT Championship and a handful of FIA GT and Le Mans Series drives.
The relationship between David Balfe and Cunningham stretches back to when David owned and ran Fortec Motorsport in the early 90's. As one of the appointed works Swift teams he ran Neil to the 1992 Formula Ford Festival final, where, in David's own words, "He was dominating by about 10 car lengths over eventual winner Jan Magnussen, before a mechanical problem put him out of contention."
"I've always been respectful of Neil's persistence throughout his career," said David Balfe. "I know how professional he is and his determination and speed will be a great asset to us as we go up against the rest of the GT1 field. Shaun and Jamie already work well together and with the team and Neil should fit straight into that relationship."
"We know that some of the newer machinery out there this year will certainly be faster than us," said Shaun. "But we have shown in the last two years in Spain, FIA GT and at the Silverstone 24-hours that we can throw some great strategies out there, so a third driver actually made a lot of sense to us," he added.
Derbyshire can't wait to get into the car and start testing, especially after talking to Shaun following his brief test of the car.
"It's going to be a good year," said Jamie. "It will certainly be interesting to see what the car is like, especially compared to the Mosler. I can't wait to get to grips with it, the carbon brakes are going to be something else to learn about. Shaun has told me they're mega once they're up to temperature,"
"I'm looking forward to the GT1 class. It's definitely going to be incredibly competitive this year. To be realistic I don't think we can challenge the Aston's on outright pace, but knowing how well the Balfe team can run the car I know that we can be there to challenge for the podium positions. I'm sure we're going to spring a few surprises during the year," he added.
Cunningham is also happy to have a full season of GT1 racing in ahead of him.
"I'm over the moon!" said Neil. "A drive in a proper GT1 car in international competition is something I've been working for throughout my career and I can't wait to get behind the wheel of the car. Jonathan and his team have decided to take a sabbatical this season and he has been incredibly helpful in backing me to go with the Balfe squad."
"I know that David and the rest of the Balfe team always turn out a damn good race car. With the work they're already doing and the driver line-up we've got I'm sure we can pick up some really competitive results through the year," he added.
"I'm certainly happy to be driving with Shaun and Jamie. I've known them both for long time and we should push each other from round to round which will be great for us and the rest of the team. I'll also need to work out how many GT cars I'll have driven again once I've tested the Saleen, I think I'm up into the 20's somewhere now!" he joked.
The team is now pushing ahead with the rebuild of its Saleen and has started to schedule time for warm weather testing some time around the end of March, early April in readiness for the start of the FIA calendar.