After combining Balfe and Bell’s qualifying times, the pair lined up third with the McLaren 720S GT3 for the two-hour British GT Championship race.
As the lights went out, Balfe retained third into Redgate behind Graham Davidson’s Aston Martin Vantage and Michael Igoe’s Lamborghini Huracan.
Fulbeck racer Balfe was quickly on the attack, but Igoe had the initial moves covered, which allowed Oli Wilkinson’s Aston Martin to close.
But by lap 16 Balfe had consolidated third and again threatened Igoe.
“The gap had been a bit of a yo-yo, so I had decided to wait until the tyres were worn, so long as Davidson was still in view,” Balfe explained.
His plan worked when Igoe ran wide through Coppice on the 18th lap, allowing both Balfe and Wilkinson to go by.
Davidson’s lead started to come down with Balfe a clear second, and the gap was just over three seconds as the time to pit for the driver change approached, but it was down to less than half-a-second when most of the GT3 cars pitted on the same lap.
Bell rejoined with a 0.481-second gap behind the lead car, now in Jonny Adam’s hands, but Adam’s team-mate Niki Thiim split the pair and stayed there for the next 17 laps.
For a while Bell looked likely to challenge again, but with 10 minutes on the clock, the gap was still 1.248secs, and over the remaining laps the lead gap grew, with Bell a solid second and 3.417secs off Davidson’s lead.
“We would have needed a really big opportunity to change the direction of this result,” Balfe added.
The next round is at Spa Francorchamps on July 20 and 21.