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Balfe and Derbyshire dominate at Knockhill

11 May 2003


Win number four swiftly followed win number three for the Balfe Motorsport pair of Shaun Balfe and Jamie Derbyshire at Knockhill today [Sunday] in rounds three and four of the 2003 British GT Championship.

The opening race saw the leading three cars hold station for the first lap, with Balfe heading the other Mosler of Tom Herridge and the Piers Johnson-driven TVR T400R.

It didn't take long for Balfe to start pulling out an advantage although that was reduced to virtually nil when the safety car came out at the start of the sixth lap to allow the recovery of the Allen Lloyd Jaguar XK8 from the gravel. The caution period presented a conundrum for the teams: whether to change drivers early under the safety car or do so later and risk losing more ground.

To an extent the decision was made for them, with the SEAT Leon Cupra R pulling off several seconds before the pit-stop window opened. Nevertheless, the Rollcentre TVR followed it into the pit lane for Rob Barff to take over but as the car didn't make an exit until the window had opened the stop was legal. ''The original plan had been for me to stay out longer,'' Herridge confirmed. The rest of the leading contenders did stay out longer, Balfe not heading for the pits until two-thirds distance. ''Shaun had set the car up for me fantastically,'' raved Derbyshire, who took over. Shane Lynch took over the Eclipse TVR and retained third place, ahead of the CDL car of Gareth Evans and Steve Hyde.

There was early drama in the second event. Lynch couldn't fire the TVR's engine at the start of the warm-up lap had therefore had to start at the back, and when the race got underway Herridge braked late at the hairpin at the start of the second lap and slid on oil into the gravel. While Balfe pulled away from the leaders Tom and Shane fought up the order to ensure the same finishing order as in the first race.

The 76 Lubricants 'Driver of the Day' award went to Ireland's Peter Le Bas, who carried on heroically after his gear lever broke in the second race. ''I had one inch of it sticking out,'' he quipped after handing over to Ricky Cole, who took the car to seventh, behind the Countdown and Peninsula TVRs and the Steve Brady/Aaron Scott Ultima.

There was a fantastic fight in the GT Cup class with the Tech 9 Porsche of Patrick Pearce and Matt Griffin holding off the Morgan Aero 8 driven solely by Neil Cunningham. ''The win was all down to good pit work,'' explained Griffin. ''We knew that the Morgan had the edge here engine-wise so it was difficult - we had to take big risks through the traffic.'' The Keith Ahlers/Rob Wells Morgan was third, ahead of the ISL Mantis. On its debut the VW Golf Turbo was a perfectly respectable fifth in class.

The later race again boiled down to a Griffin/Cunningham fight, but this time there was contact in the last five minutes of the race at the chicane. The Porsche spun out while to Morgan continued to class victory. Griffin was aggrieved at what he perceived to be Cunningham's unfair tactics, but the experienced campaigner was adamant he was not to blame. ''I consider myself a fair driver. I was on the grass trying to avoid him - I'm just sorry it happened that way.'' The Hector Lester/Tim Bartlett Ferrari was second ahead of the other Morgan.

There's no doubt about the championship leaders: Balfe and Derbyshire head the way as the contenders prepare for the longest ever British GT race - a three-hour affair - at Silverstone two weeks today.




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