Fulbeck racer Balfe lands season’s first podium at Snetterton

Balfe bounced back with the new McLaren 720S GT3 EMN-190520-141206002
Balfe bounced back with the new McLaren 720S GT3 EMN-190520-141206002

After the disappointments of Oulton Park, the Fulbeck-based Balfe Motorsport team celebrated a podium finish at Snetterton on Sunday.

The team took third place in what was only their new McLaren 720S GT3 car’s second-ever race.

Shaun Balfe (left) with co-driver Rob Bell on the Snetterton podium EMN-190520-141217002

Shaun Balfe (left) with co-driver Rob Bell on the Snetterton podium EMN-190520-141217002

Shaun Balfe was out in the first qualifying session for the amateur drivers and was seventh-fastest, while co-driver Rob Bell was optimistic about the weekend prospects.

Balfe started the first of the two one-hour races and slotted into eighth place, chasing the Bentley of Rick Parfitt Jnr.

“I got hit twice before the first corner, lost two places but kept my foot in,” he said.

After six laps of trailing Parfitt, the lead group had started to spread out, but with mistakes from his rivals, he was up to sixth by the end of lap eight, still chasing Parfitt.

Balfe was one of the first to stop and handed over to Bell, who emerged in a challenging fifth place.

It all began to close up and became a five-car train for the lead.

Bell made it up to third, but came under tremendous pressure from Jonny Adam’s Aston Martin.

With the leading GT3 quintet running in such close contention, lapping the GT4 cars proved precarious.

Bell had already been baulked going through Murrays on the 21st lap, and two laps there was contact with a GT4 car which broke the rear rim.

As the crew worked feverishly to have the car fit for race two, it was Bell’s turn to start.

From the opening lap he was in a strong fifth was a late stopper, finally handing over to Balfe from a challenging third place.

Having rejoined fourth, the pressure was soon on from Parfitt’s Bentley.

They swapped places on lap 23, but a lap later the Bentley had an off and Balfe was back into fourth.

Balfe began to reel in Mark Farmer’s Aston Martin, before a brave move around the outside at Oggies, saw him emerge in third, a position he held to the line, just three seconds behind the winner.

“He had been defending hard at the traditional overtaking places, so I had to try something different, but I certainly didn’t expect a podium.

“I thought the others were stronger and that fortune wasn’t going to go our way.”