Baptism of fire for at Donington Park for Balfe Motorsport’s newcomer Stewart Proctor
Balfe Motorsport’s debutant racer says it was a baptism of fire despite his outfit leaving Donington Park with silverware.
After the success of Oulton Park a fortnight ago, Newark-based Balfe Motorsport were in a buoyant mood ahead of round three and four, which saw the introduction of the newly-fettled McLaren 570S GT3 alongside the winning GT4 McLaren.
As Shaun Balfe took over as team manager, the opportunity to run two new drivers in Stewart Proctor and Joe Osbourne for 2020 in the GT3 McLaren presented itself.
Day one was met with glorious conditions at the Leicestershire circuit, and from the outset the Balfe team were on the pace in both GT3 and GT4.
The McLaren in GT4 of Mia Flewitt and Euen Hankey also went well by posting the fourth quickest time in GT4.
Originally the schedule was for a sole three-hour race but organisers, SRO, changed the format to accommodate a two-hour endurance race and a one-hour sprint affair.
As a result, qualifying became more important to the teams as the fastest lap posted overall would determine the starting position for round three and the second fastest time for round four.
With so much promise in free practice, some gremlins in qualifying saw the GT3 and GT4 Balfe McLarens fall to the rear of the GT3 and GT4 grids for the start of race one.
However, the race two grid would offer more opportunity as Osbourne had set the fastest lap in his qualifying stint which would see the McLaren GT3 start from pole position while the more experienced Hankey put the GT4 machine 19th on the grid for race two.
Proctor started the race in the GT3 and found inexperience in the McLaren in the wet meant that he slipped to the back of the grid by lap two, before finishing 12th overall in the GT3 and19th in GT4.
Race two offered more opportunities as the GT3 McLaren lined up on pole position.
Slow away from the start, Osbourne found that a potential wrong tyre choice resulted in him slipping from pole to fifth by the end of lap one.
However, by the time the race was 15 minutes old, Osbourne had found that the slick tyres were an informed choice.
He moved back up to second, before dropping again to third and ultimately finishing fifth after dropping two spots on the final corner.
Proctor said: “It was a real baptism of fire and I had to work extremely hard. We’ve achieved lots of firsts this weekend and gained plenty of experience.
“Joe and the team gave me half a chance of a podium out there today, so I’m pleased we’re leaving with some silverware.
Hankey, who came second overall in the GT4 class, said: “We took the gamble to go on the slicks. It paid off and I’m thrilled with how much progress we’ve made.
“We’ve had two more wins in GT4 Pro-Am, and we’ve got the car back safely each time. We’ve got lots of positives to take forward for the team.”