British GT Championship

“We’re Really Strong This Weekend!” – Balfe Motorsport’s Balfe And Bell Take Pole At Donington. (14.09.19)

Shaun Balfe and Rob Bell put the #22 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 on pole position for the final round of the 2019 British GT Championship, Balfe and Bell lapping .615 seconds quicker on aggregate from the #72 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 driven by Adam Balon and Phil Keen. Completing the top three on the GT3 class was the #47 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 piloted by Graham Davidson and Jonny Adam.

Class honours in the GT4 category were taken by the #29 Steller Performance Audi R8 LMS GT4 driven by Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding.

The first of the four qualifying ten-minute sessions got underway with the Am driver of the Pro-Am partnerships behind the wheel. Lap times fell rapidly and after the field had all had at least two flying laps, Shaun Balfe headed the timing screens in the #22 Balfe Motorsport McLaren 720S with a 1:27.869 on his second lap. Drivers championship contenders Graham Davidson and Adam Balon sat in fourth and twelfth respectively, Davidson lapping in 1:28.473 and Balon putting in a 1:29.212.

As the chequered flag fell, Balfe’s improved time of 1:27.714 stood as the quickest of the session and while Graham Davidson was unable to improve on his 1:28.473 and was fifth quickest, Adam Balon had pulled himself up to sixth on the timing screens with a 1:28.478. Angus Fender in the #9 Century Motorsport BMW was second quickest with a 1:27.930 while Ian Loggie in the #6 RAM Racing Mercedes completed the top three with a 1:28.355.

Rob Bell in the #6 McLaren was the first driver to get under 1:27 with a 1:26.799 to leave the Balfe Motorsport entry in provisional pole. Phil Keen in the #72 Lamborghini went quicker still with 1:26.518 to move the championship leading Barwell Motorsport entry into a provisional second on the grid. Jonny Adam, meanwhile, moved into third with a 1:27.369.

As the GT3 sessions drew to a close, the aggregate lap time set by Rob Bell and Shaun Balfe of 2:54.381 was not to be beaten and the #22 McLaren 720S stood on pole position, .615 seconds on aggregate ahead of the #72 Barwell Lamborghini. Callum Macleod put in a 1:27.235 to put the #6 Mercedes into third on the grid, pushing the #47 Davidson / Adam Aston Martin down to fourth.

“I was pleased,” said Shaun Balfe, back in the pitlane. “Indications this morning (in practice) were pretty strong but our feet were on the ground as you never know what everybody else has got in their back pocket. For us, it was a good day. The car’s working well – the team’s working well and we were consistently strong. It’s just another race weekend for us so business as usual.

“It’s a good car,” continued Shaun Balfe. “Coming off the 650 into the 720 it was a natural progression and we gel really well with the car. We’re very pleased to be on pole for tomorrow.”

Rob Bell was equally delighted to be starting from pole.

“As Shaun said, we’re really strong this weekend,” said Rob Bell. “It’s no surprise (that we’ve improved as the season’s gone on) as it’s the first year with this car and you’re only going to get stronger. If the weather stays like this, we’ll be really happy. We’ve got a 15-second penalty and there’s the little matter of the first lap to contend with! Let’s just take it as it comes but at the end of the day, the car’s a joy to drive at the moment and we’ll just do the best we can.”

The first GT4 qualifying session got underway with Ash Hand setting the early pace with a 1:35.402 in the #97 TF Sport Aston Martin. The sister #95 entry, piloted by Patrick Kibble, was .566 seconds behind the #97 car to leave the TF Sport GT4 entries 1 – 2 on the timing screens.

Richard Williams, however, in the #29 Steller Performance Audi R8 LMS GT4 put in a 1:34.970 to go .057 seconds quicker than Ash hand and set provisional pole position.

Photo: British GT Championship

The second session got underway in short order with Tom Canning putting in a 1:35.219 to put the #97 Aston back to the top of the timing screens on aggregate times. The #29 Steller Performance, now with Sennan Fielding behind the wheel, lapped in 1:34.791 to take back provisional pole by .423 seconds over the #57 McLaren driven by Dean Macdonald. GT4 championship rivals Tom Canning and Ash Hand will start behind the #57 car, having set an aggregate time of 3:10.216, .032 seconds slower than the #57 car.

As the session concluded, Sennan Fielding and Richard Williams stood on pole position as Tom Canning in the #97 Aston lapped in 1:35.110 to go second quickest with the #57 McLaren in third.