Brit GT » 17 August 2003
Balfe and Derbyshire win Thruxton thriller.
The Mosler MT900R of Shaun Balfe and Jamie Derbyshire scored a superb victory at Thruxton today [Sunday] in an absorbing ninth round of the BRDC British GT Championship.
After 75 minutes of racing, their Mosler was just two seconds ahead of the Ferrari 360 of Tim Mullen and Andrew Kirkaldy.
In the GT Cup class, Patrick Pearce and Matt Griffin clinched the title with another win over the Morgan of Neil Cunningham and Henry Taylor.
In the early laps, the Ferrari romped away into a commanding lead. Further back, Derbyshire had a rare spin in the Mosler and dropped to the bottom of the top 10. However, more drama was to come on lap 18 when the TVR T400R of Gareth Evans and the Mosler of Tom Herridge made contact on the exit of the chicane and speared off into the tyre wall. Neither driver was injured, but the cars needed to be moved and so the safety car was brought out.
Most teams made their driver changes during the safety car period, but the Mullen Ferrari stayed out until lap 31 before making its mandatory pit stop. However, there was drama as the team hit a problem with a wheel nut as they changed two wheels. In all, the car lost more than half a minute and rejoined down in fifth place.
"I was a bit annoyed at the safety car coming out, it undid all of the good work," said Mullen after his substantial lead evaporated behind the safety car.
In the meantime, some slick pit work by the Balfe team got the Mosler back out in the lead, while a slower car badly delayed the TVRs of Mike Jordan/Richard Stanton and Piers Johnson/Shane Lynch as the race resumed at the green flag.
The second half of the race was an absorbing contest as Balfe led under increasing pressure from Jordan's TVR and Kirkaldy in the Ferrari. Johnson tried to stay with them, but slowly dropped back a little. Balfe's problems increased when another brief safety car cost him the 20-second advantage he had maintained.
With 10 laps to run, Balfe grabbed a seven-second lead at the green flag as his rivals were caught behind slower cars, but that came down lap by lap as Kirkaldy finally fought ahead of Jordan. At the flag, Balfe had just two seconds lead over Kirkaldy after a mighty drive that netted him the 76 Racing Fuels driver of the day award.
"That's an excellent result. I'm so chuffed for everyone in Balfe Motorsport. This is the best victory of the year," said an elated Balfe.
Jordan had given his all to stay in touch with the Ferrari and his dogged defence of second place had certainly aided Balfe's cause. "When he caught me he was on much fresher tyres, but I realised I could stay with him," said Jordan. Fourth place left Johnson and Lynch leading the championship by just two points from Balfe and Derbyshire.
Cunningham drove a storming opening stint in the Morgan to lead GT Cup, but paid the penalty for not doing the driver change during the first safety car period. By the time he handed the car over to Taylor, the Porsche of Pearce and Griffin was clearly ahead in GT Cup and duly clinched the title with a resounding victory. "That's unbelievable! The pit stop was beautiful," reckoned Griffin.
Third in GT Cup was the Morgan of Keith Ahlers/Rob Wells, with the Porsche of Liz Halliday/Tom Shrimpton in fourth.
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