Balfe team retain Euro lead after Monza

Shaun Balfe (right) and Rob Bell take class win at Monza EMN-170910-160359002
Shaun Balfe (right) and Rob Bell take class win at Monza EMN-170910-160359002

The Balfe Motorsport team maintained their International GT Open Pro Am Championship class lead despite problems at the penultimate round in Monza.

It started well with Rob Bell taking overall pole for Saturday’s race in the McLaren 650S GT3, but in a messy start to the first race, Bell had some contact at the Rettifilo chicane and slotted into third.

After losing third on lap three, Bell settled in behind Bouveng and retained fourth place until the pitstop window opened.

Following the changeover, Fulbeck driver Shaun Balfe exited the pits to lead for the first half-lap before newly crowned British GT champion Seb Morris went by in the Lamborghini, and went on to take the win.

“I got in and we were straight out again as the damage only looked cosmetic,” Balfe said.

“I lost one place to Giovanni Venturini in the Mapelli Lamborghini, but knew that the next car behind was the Pro class BMW of Fran Rueda, so that was a cushion before the next Pro Am.

“I held the gap, took the class win and being third overall was a real bonus.”

It was Balfe’s turn to qualify on Sunday morning, and he set his quickest lap of the weekend and fourth-best time for the Pro Am class.

Starting 14th overall on the grid, the car suffered a problem at the start when the turbo actuator failed on the way to the grid, resulting in a loss of power.

Having lost a couple of early places, Balfe settled in 16th overall, sixth in class and opted for an early stop.

Bell rejoined and soon recovered their overall placing, but during the handover some of the Pro-Am rivals had got ahead.

He picked off three rivals within a few laps for 13th overall and fifth in class.

The team will protect a 12-point lead at the championship finale in Catalunya at the end of October.