Caythorpe’s Shaun Balfe had regular co-driver Phil Keen back with him for the latest round of the International GT Open at Monza, as the pair still had a chance of the overall title in their Balfe Motorsport McLaren 650S.
“We both set some good times in the free practice session, both had confidence, even though I felt I had more to offer, we were pleased with our direction,” said Balfe.
He was out in the first qualifying session which set the grid positions for the first race.
“I think I was highest placed bronze grade driver, so did as much as I could. I was seventh but it was very close and I could so easily have been fifth,” he added.
His plan was to stay in touch with any professional drivers that were starting and keep the car in contention to hand to Keen.
“I was lapping about 0.75 seconds slower than the pros but the cooler temperature seemed to upset the balance of the car,” he explained, as the race took place late into the afternoon.
He was able to retain his seventh place and pulled well clear Da Costa’s Mercedes and fellow McLaren driver West, but couldn’t make any inroads on the sixth placed Lamborghini of Busnelli.
After the stop, Keen found the same problems with the handling and spent his early stint chasing defending champion Ramos’ BMW. But their duel allowed Ledogar’s McLaren to not only close, but take them both.
Keen did make it past the BMW to take fourth.
“Frustrating, as it robbed us of a possible podium,” Balfe added.
For Sunday morning’s qualifying session, it was Keen at the wheel, with slick tyres on a drying track. He qualified second quickest, having been towards the top of the times for the whole session.
Starting on the front row, hopes were high as the lights went out, but Crestani’s Lamborghini made a good start but braked early through turn one with Keen in second. It caused the chasing pack to swarm all over him and as Caldarelli’s Ferrari pressed, there was contact.
It was only when Keen reached the second chicane that he realised his tyre valve had been taken out in the touch and he was forced to pit to replace the front right, losing a lap in the process.
They continued to run but it was impossible to make up for lost time and after Balfe took over for the second half, he came home in a disappointing ninth.
“We had the pace but not the luck,” Balfe concluded.
The title decider is at the Catalunya circuit, near Barcelona, at the beginning of November and will once again be shown on Motors TV.