Motorsport Undertakes First Major Test
The Spirit Group
backed Balfe Motorsport Saleen S7R took to the south circuit configuration
at Silverstone on Tuesday, April 4, giving Jamie Derbyshire and
new team signing Neil Cunningham their first chance to sample the
newly rebuilt GT1 machine.
A clear, dry
day was a welcome change after the mixed weather conditions at the
shakedown at Donington Park a week earlier. The team even chose
to work in the fresh Northamptonshire air, rather than put the awning
up on the side of the new transporter. The guys in the team did
realize that jackets needed to be worn, it isn’t quite summer
time just yet!
Jamie and Neil
spent the early part of the morning getting fitted into the seat
and being made comfortable, before Shaun Balfe gave the car a brief
run for a systems check. As the big 7-litre V8 was fired into life,
both Jamie and Neil couldn’t hide their obvious excitement,
with Cunningham having a broad grin on his face. “It sounds
mega, doesn’t it?” he smiled.
Jamie then climbed
aboard for his first drive in a GT1 car since the Creation Lister
Storm in 2004. After spending a handful of laps settling into the
car he came back in and had a brief talk to the team, making sure
he was comfortable, before going back out for a longer series of
With the intention
of the morning session being to get Neil and Jamie acclimatised
to the car, as soon as Jamie came back in, the Kiwi was straight
into seat, with the team making sure he, too, was comfortable and
got his first run in what he reckoned was his 20th GT car of his
impressed with the car and the work the team has put into it over
the winter and was mightily impressed with the difference in braking
power compared to the other cars he’s driven.
really good and comfortable straight away,” said Jamie. “It
just ‘feels’ more natural than the Lister did, in there
you sit really upright, whereas in the Saleen you’re low down
and have a better feeling for what the car is doing. The guys in
the team have done a superb job on the car, it looks fantastic and
everything was spot on. It’s a Balfe Motorsport car, everything
has been done properly,” he added.
The step up
to contemporary GT1 machinery left at least one lasting impression
on his first drive, though, and it wasn’t the power.
on the GT1 cars really are something else,” he said. “The
carbon discs and pads are going to take a lot of getting used to,
just for the fact that there’s nothing at all until you get
the heat into them. Then, once there is, the braking distances are
just so small. You need a lot of commitment to get the best out
of them. It’s just one of the things that make the differences
between GT2 and GT1.
through the same procedure, giving the team some feedback over the
course of his first run, and was soon into the groove and lapping
comfortably and quickly.
With all three
drivers happy with the car the afternoon was the first proper chance
for the team to start gathering data and getting to grips with the
set-up. A total of 127 laps were completed by the end of the day,
with a total running time of just over a race distance being completed
so far during the course of testing -with not a single mechanical
or technical problem.
definitely a good start to the year for us,” said Shaun Balfe.
“The car has run like clockwork, not that we expected anything
to go wrong. But, after three seasons with the Mosler, that we’d
built from scratch and run without any problems at all, we didn’t
start the GT1 project automatically assuming that it would be the
same. It’s nice to be able to get to grips with the car and
start setting it up without any problems though.”
The team will
now head to the FIA GT official test and media days at Dijon with
even more optimism and is looking forward to seeing what pace the
opposition will be running at for the start of the season.