By: N.A. on September 20, 2006

The Balfe Motorsport team managed to take one championship point at Mugello, in Italy, at the weekend.

The latest round of the FIA GT Championship started well for the squad, with Shaun Balfe initially holding a front-row position throughout the first 15-minutes of the 20-minute qualifying session.

The session had started incredibly wet and, as the track dried, Balfe had been able to get an early ‘banker’ lap.

As the rest of the GT1 grid came in to change over to slick tyres, the Balfe team were waiting in the pit-lane to see if they had left it late.

Unfortunately, the timing screens showed that the track was getting quicker and the Saleen S7R dropped to ninth place.

“It was good to be at the top end of the timing screens,” said Balfe.

“I knew the track would get quicker throughout the session and I went a little bit faster near the end too.”

The three-hour race gave the team even more excitement and nerves as heavy rain fell.

As the safety car led the field away on the parade lap it rained harder, meaning Balfe was driving blind because of the spray.

The head of the field sprinted away, but the remaining cars were all struggling to stay on track, with the car alongside Balfe aqua-planing off the circuit.

“It was probably the worst conditions I’ve ever driven in at the start of the race,” admitted Balfe.

“The Ferrari was right next to me on the grid and, with all the spray, I didn’t even see him go off.”

After a handful of steady laps, the rain eased off and conditions improved as Balfe handed over to Nigel Taylor.

A great call by Taylor allowed the team to know when it was the right time to change over to slick tyres. However, the team kept him out for a handful of extra laps, allowing it to get into a fuel stop window.

The excitement for the team wasn’t over yet though. With 25-minutes of the race left to run – and with the team looking at a points-scoring finish – Balfe ended in the gravel trap.

It was a nail-biting final 20-minutes for the team as they watched Balfe reel off the laps, bringing the car over the line for its first race finish in the last three races.

“It was a simple mistake and I thought I was going to get away with it, but once I was off, the dry part of the track the car just headed straight for the gravel,” said Balfe.

“We lost three laps, but we were desperate to finish this race after the problems we’ve had.”