Balfe’s Saleen Crew
The Balfe Motorsport team has signed Jamie Derbyshire and Neil Cunningham to partner Shaun Balfe in its Saleen S7R in the FIA GT championship.

Jamie Derbyshire drove the team’s Mosler in the G2 Class of the FIA GT Championship last year, while Neil Cunningham moves across from the Embassy team.

“We’re pleased to have a strong line-up for the jump into GT1,” said Shaun Balfe. “Jamie obviously has a tremendously successful and long standing relationship with the Balfe team and it’s great that he is continuing with us as we move up this year. I know that he can’t wait to get in the car and get to grips with it,”

“Neil approached us and is backed by Jonathan France from Embassy Racing. We were keen to do something with Neil as he and my father David go back a long way. Jamie and I have also been in British GT racing with him, so we know how committed he is to whatever he is driving.”

David Balfe ran Fortec Motorsport in the early 90s, and ran Neil Cunningham in the 1992 Formula Ford Festival, where, in David’s own words, “He was dominating by about 10 car lengths over eventual winner Jan Magnussen (in the final), before a mechanical problem put him out of contention.”

“I’ve always been respectful of Neil’s persistence throughout his career,” said David Balfe. “I know how professional he is and his determination and speed will be a great asset to us as we go up against the rest of the GT1 field. Shaun and Jamie already work well together and with the team and Neil should fit straight into that relationship.”

Shaun Balfe suggests that some of the newer machinery in the FIA GT Championship “will certainly be faster than us, but we have shown in the last two years in Spain, FIA GT and at the Silverstone 24-hours that we can throw some great strategies out there, so a third driver actually made a lot of sense to us.”

Jamie Derbyshire predicts that “it’s definitely going to be incredibly competitive this year. To be realistic I don’t think we can challenge the Astons on outright pace, but knowing how well the Balfe team can run the car I know that we can be there to challenge for the podium positions.”

“I’m over the moon!” commented the always-enthusiastic Neil Cunningham. “A drive in a proper GT1 car in international competition is something I’ve been working for throughout my career and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the car. Jonathan and his team have decided to take a sabbatical this season and he has been incredibly helpful in backing me to go with the Balfe squad.

“I’ll need to work out how many GT cars I’ll have driven again once I’ve tested the Saleen, I think I’m up into the 20s somewhere now!”

Warm weather testing is planned for the end of March – with the FIA GT calendar now rumoured to begin at Silverstone in early May. Here are the three of them on the podium - at Silverstone in May 2005 (the Mosler drivers were winners in G2 and Cunningham / Ben Collins were second in GT2, in the Embassy Porsche).

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