After their race-winning end to the British GT Championship, Balfe Motorsport toasted a superb one-two in Abu Dhabi last week.
The Fulbeck-based racing team took the top two spots on the podium in the Gulf 12-hour race at the Yas Marina resort.
Taking two of the GT4 McLaren 570s, the team fielded amateur drivers from the Pure McLaren Series, paired with the professional racers who have been their season-long coaches.
Pro drivers Ollie Millroy and Josh Cook took the cars out in the first qualifying session, before handing to the amateurs, but it was down to Mia Flewit and Nick Moss to start the race which was split into two six-hour parts.
Brand Racing’s BMW M4 led after the first hour, but the Balfe cars lay second and third and only 18 seconds off the lead.
Moss shared the first six hours with fellow amateur Brendan Iribe, while Flewitt was partnered by Issam Charrouf in the second car.
“We had planned all along to start with the ams and just put the pro’s in at the end, but we didn’t need to and the ams did it all,” said team manager Chris Moore.
Team principal David Balfe added: “These cars haven’t been renowned for long-distance success, but we wanted to prove them wrong.
They couldn’t have finished part one any better, as the Moss/Iribe car had the lead, with 28 seconds in handover from Flewitt/Charrouf, both having a lap on the third-placed SVG Mercedes.
Moss and Flewitt started the second half, too, but the pro’s got their turn later, with James Pickford, Moss’s coach, out racing for the first time in 10 years.
There were slight concerns at the start of part two when Flewitt was hit from behind by the Appleby Engineering Aston Martin Vantage.
“She tried to radio in, but we didn’t get the message, then we saw the damage to the rear diffuser and sparks from the exhaust, but it didn’t affect the performance,” Moore explained.
Moss, Iribe, Pickford and Euan Hankey topped the leaderboard at the end of the seventh and eighth hour, with the SVG Mercedes continuing to be the main threat.
“We had a gap and just had to manage it, we didn’t have to push too hard and the ams looked after the cars, kept off the kerbs and did a brilliant job before Euan took the flag, flashing his lights for a brilliant win,” Pickford added.
Following an error in their pitstop strategy, the Mercedes team were forced to make an extra stop, leaving them out of the running and handing the Balfe team a clear one-two to cap a fantastic weekend.
Moore said: “The pit crew, the engineers and strategy were magnificent.
“There aren’t many races where you can look back and think there’s nothing we could have done better.
“It wasn’t only a challenge for the ams, but for the whole Balfe Motorsport Team as it was our debut in real endurance racing.
“I was so proud of all the boys, they delivered and it now shows the level we are at.
“Everyone proved themselves and with all the support from McLaren too, just great.”