Grantham’s Shaun Balfe and Tom Ashton had a positive start to the 2021 motor racing season, with third in class and ninth overall in the Masters Pre 66 Touring Cars, with the Balfe Motorsport Lotus Cortina.
Having only raced the Cortina once last season, they started qualifying on the back foot, but managed to claim 15th overall and sixth in class, for a row eight start in the afternoon’s one hour race.
“Tom went out first for a few laps, then I did maybe seven or eight and set the time about 20 minutes into the session. I could have gone quicker twice, but got held up in the final corners both times,” said Balfe.
Balfe took the opening stint too and after losing one place at the start, he was soon back in 15th after demoting Dan Wheeler’s Mini Cooper S.
“I was on the inside at Redgate and could see it kicking off on the outside. So I tried to stay well out of it and safe, and the pesky Mini got me,” he explained.
Alan Thistlethwayte’s Ford Mustang was the next target, but there was little between them on lap times.
“He drove very well. I tried everything but couldn’t get him, he had that V8 grunt on the straights,” said Balfe.
With casualties start to fall by the wayside, Balfe was up to 12th place by the end of lap 13, but having been unable to get passed the Mustang, Will Dyrdal’s Mini briefly closed on them both.
“We were both catching the cars ahead and being caught ourselves, so it was quite a train of cars for a while,” he said. Balfe headed for the pits after 20 laps for their driver change, and after their rivals had also been in the order began to settle again.
When Ashton emerged he was still chasing the Thistlethwayte Mustang for eighth place however, but the gap was now over seven seconds.
Out came the safety car for a brief intervention, Ashton had climbed to eighth, but was then under pressure from Mark Burton’s Mustang as the green flag was waved.
Burton had managed to get by on the 31st , but Ashton stayed in touch and had every chance of regaining his lost place.
But Roy Alderslade’s Cortina then also got by, and more importantly dropped them a place in the class.
It was nose to tail for the final laps and Ashton’s reward for keeping the pressure on was reclaiming ninth place from Alderslade, enough to clinch third in class too.