FIA GT Championship – Round 2 Brno - May 26-28
It was a short
gap between the opening round of the FIA GT Championship and the
latest round at Brno for the Spirit Motor Group-backed Balfe Motorsport
The plan before
the Czech event was to get as much work done to the Saleen S7R as
possible, to narrow the gap to the rest of the GT1 field. To find
itself so far away, with a car that didn’t do what the drivers
wanted it to do at Silverstone, was disappointing. However, the
team knew the areas that needed work and the majority of the job
list was completed before the truck left for the haul to Brno.
The only problem
was, the first time the team would know if it had closed the gap
would be in the opening session at the circuit. A complete damper
change had made a significant improvement to the car, meaning that
the drivers and engineers could now make it do what they wanted
and it responded, which was a bonus for the start of the weekend.
Both Jamie Derbyshire
and Shaun Balfe were still struggling on the exit of corners, but
the initial changes the team had made were a step forward. But the
proof that more work still needed to be done was the second free
practice session, where the GLPK Corvette and the Zakspeed Saleen
showed what the ultimate pace truly was, once again seemingly putting
the Balfe squad further out of reach.
The car certainly
isn’t slow. The team glanced at the speed trap figures and
the Balfe Saleen was the second fastest over the start/finish line.
The problem the drivers were having was getting the power down.
A lack of traction control, or at least a fully functioning version
of it, wasn’t helping. This and the lack of grip, are the
main issues that team will be looking at over the long break between
Brno and round three at Oschersleben in Germany.
The race day
warm-up proved a little bit tricky for Jamie Derbyshire. With torrential
rain falling, he was finding it hard to get to grips with the car,
until he and the Saleen got settled in later in the session. But
he was also suffering from a misting windscreen, which meant he
was unable to see any braking points in the first half of the short
15-minute session! A heated unit was installed for the race, in
case the weather stayed the same: luckily by the time the race began
it wasn’t needed.
opening section of the race went well for the team. Shaun Balfe
managed to stay with the rest of the GT1 cars for a couple of laps,
before they began to pull away. However, he did manage to move up
a couple of places as the guys at the front got too over-excited
and threw themselves into the Czech gravel.
distance, Shaun handed over to Jamie and he went out for the middle
stint of the race. He managed to settle in quickly and got straight
into a rhythm, before he radioed to the team that he had started
to feel a loss of power.
The team called
him in and immediately downloaded the engine data to see if there
was anything terminally wrong. What was thought to be a swift fix
was done in the pit-lane, before he was sent back out again.
it didn’t (fix it). Jamie was back in a lap later, and this
time he reversed into the garage, as the mechanics swarmed all over
the rear end of the Saleen. As the clock ticked away the team decided
that Jamie should stay in the car to the end of the race, meaning
that with the stops for the mis-fire, they wouldn’t have to
The car was
wheeled back out onto the pit apron once again and as Jamie left
the pits he initially thought it was clear. But as soon as he opened
it up on the circuit, it was apparent that the problem was still
there. As a precaution, the team decided that bringing it back and
calling it a day was the best option, saving the engine in case
anything major was amiss and looking forward to testing and getting
everything right before round three.
think it to look at the timesheet this weekend, but the car was
definitely a big improvement from Silverstone this weekend,”
said Shaun Balfe. “We still have some work to do, but we’ve
certainly turned the corner in getting the car to work and respond.
We knew that we would still be up against it here, but the whole
team had hoped that we would be much closer.”
already got plans in motion for the time between Brno and Oschersleben,
so we’ll be putting those into effect as soon as we get back
to the UK, and with any luck we’ll be in a position to challenge
for a place in the top six or seven and be in amongst the rest of
the GT1 cars. We know the ultimate pace is beyond us, certainly
at this point in the season. But the Zakspeed car has shown what
the Saleen can do, so we will keep working towards it.”
was frustrated by the non-finish in Brno, but was also happy with
the step forward from the car between races.
start of the weekend when I first went out the car felt really balanced
and good,” he said. “The outright speed wasn’t
there, obviously. But compared to what we had at Silverstone, it
was great. I had a touch of understeer when I first went out and
we made a change and it responded straight away. We’re definitely
struggling out of the corners against the other cars, which I think
is where we’re losing the biggest chunk of time.”
team have got plans for the time between here and Germany and another
move forward like we’ve had I think will put us in a position
to battle with the middle order on a consistent basis, which is
where we wanted to be.”