GT Championship – Round 3 Oschersleben – July 1-2
A First Point – But Aiming Higher
The main aim
for the Spirit Motor Group backed Balfe Motorsport team for round
three at Oschersleben was to be closer to the rest of the FIA GT1
field over the course of the weekend, with the hope to be able to
get into the points.
With the team’s
first FIA GT point now on the board – it didn’t score
any last year in the G2 class, even though it reached the podium
more times than some of the other cars on the grid – it was
partly mission accomplished, at least for now.
A lot more work
had been undertaken by the team in the break before Germany and
the hope was that it wouldn’t be the last car in the GT1 class
on the timing screens. With ten cars out in Germany it was great
for the Balfe guys to see the Saleen S7R in P8, in front of the
Race Alliance Aston Martin and the B-Racing Lamborghini, at the
end of the opening free practice session.
In the second
session the team hit a small glitch, when the car began to shut
down as Shaun Balfe tried to make his way down the pit-lane. A number
of attempts later it was found that the ‘cool box’ for
the drivers’ cool suits has leaked a small amount of water
into the footwell of the car, which in turn had found its way into
the electronics. Once found the problem was easily solved, but it
lost the team a little bit of track time and it subsequently ended
the session in 10th, just two-hundredths of a second behind the
Race Alliance Aston.
would show exactly where the team actually lies in terms of outright
pace and whether the hard work had paid off. The twenty minute session
in the FIA GT championship isn’t very long. It’s a ‘get
out, get it done’ kind of session.
went out and set a couple of laps and knew there was a bit more
in the car to come, not to mention that he’d have been able
to set a faster time if it hadn’t been for one of the Aston
Martins backing up the cars behind for an attempt at a fast lap!
So, it was decided
that he should pit, swap tyres and make adjustments and go for another
lap. However, as he got to the end of the pit-lane he was called
in to the scrutineering bay, which lost the team around three minutes.
A large chunk of time when there’s only eight minutes of the
session left to go!
Shaun went back
out but was unable to get a clear lap in the time that was left
and the team would once again have to settle for 10th place on the
gird. But the good news was that the Balfe Saleen was now knocking
on the door of the other teams. It was only half a second from the
Lamborghini in front, whereas it had been three seconds away at
Brno. Added to the fact that they were around three seconds away
from the pole time from the Maserati MC12, exactly where they predicted
the car would be at the start of the season. The team is now where
it should have been at the start of the year. Unfortunately, until
you go racing, especially at this level, you never know the true
outright pace unless teams have to push.
It was a slight
boost for the guys in the team that the car was doing what it was
supposed to and both drivers were a lot happier with how the cars
was on track.
so much better,” said Jamie Derbyshire. “I’m able
to get to grips with it now and it will do what you want it to do.
It’s as far away from the car we had at Silverstone as you
could want! The guys have obviously put a lot of time into it and
its paying off. It’s a shame we’re not just a bit quicker,
but there’s still more to come yet.”
a little bit disappointing to not be a bit closer, or even above
a few cars,” said Shaun Balfe. “But its certainly vast
improvement from the start of the season and we’ve got more
work to do yet, so as the season progresses it will be even better.
It’s good that we’re at this level now as we can start
to work on the car to improve the speed and not fight to make it
work as we did for the first two rounds.”
All the team
believed that they had a good race pace and that the three hours
on Sunday afternoon would give them a chance to prove what they
could do. A reliable and trouble-free run would be a good aim.
At the start
of the race Shaun expected there to be some contact at the head
of the field, because the Oschersleben circuit is pretty tight over
the opening few corners and the front runners would be desperate
to get out and into the distance early.
The early laps
looked good for the Saleen, with Shaun staying with the Lamborghini
and Aston Martin ahead for a number of laps, before they began to
very slowly pull out a small gap.
the Balfe car was fine, although Shaun noticed that the water temperature
on the dash was running reasonably high, but thought it was just
because the outside temperature was hot.
Jamie took over
and immediately radioed to the team that the temperature was high
– now at 94 degrees, nothing to be alarmed about, but certainly
something to watch. Jamie put in a superb stint behind the wheel.
He was lapping consistently, and with the temperature issue, was
constantly giving the team feedback on what was happening in the
car, especially as the temperature was steadily rising.
With about 15
minutes of Jamie’s stint left to run he advised the team that
the water had now peaked at 99 degrees: there was obviously a reason,
but the temperature had been rising very slowly so it wasn’t
thought to be a mechanical problem.
As he dived
into the pits to hand back over to Shaun the team set about checking
all the vents across the front of the car. Sure enough, there was
a large amount of rubber and debris from around the track that had
been sucked into the gaping mouth of the Saleen. As he went back
out onto the track, Shaun advised the team that the engine was now
running at normal running temperature. Relief for the team but it
was something that could have proved terminal if it had happened
felt really good I was just pre-occupied with the water temperature
when I got in,” said Jamie afterwards. “I felt like
I was able to drive the car harder, rather than it having a mind
of its own! It was a good race pace and I could just concentrate
on picking the laps off and chipping away at the lap times, when
I wasn’t checking the dash, obviously!”
As the laps
clicked down the B-Racing Lamborghini also struck trouble when Christophe
Bouchut found he had no brakes at the end of the start/finish straight,
putting the car into a spin and into the gravel – and barriers
– and out of the race. This put the Balfe car into eighth
place, good enough for its first point in the series and gave the
team something to celebrate, after two rounds that had been frustrating
The team is
now looking forward to the remainder of the season and knows that
it can progress further up the order on the grid. There is more
to do on the car and the drivers are now able to push themselves
harder to get the times. It will only be a matter of time before
the red and white Saleen is mixing it with the rest of the GT1 runners.
great to have scored a point,” said Shaun Balfe. “People
will probably think that to shout about eighth place is a little
bit premature, but we’re where we expected to be at the start
of the year and we know that there is a lot more to come in terms
of pace, from us and the car.
said before that this is the premier league of GT racing and there’s
nowhere to find out exactly how quick you are until you go racing.
We’ve just had to work incredibly hard to get to this point
and we’re certainly not going to take our foot off the pedal
now we’re this close. We’ll definitely be aiming for
a higher finish every time we go out from now on.”