GT Championship – Silverstone Tourist Trophy – May 15
Second In GT2
a very good feeling, when it all comes together like this,”
summed up Embassy Racing team owner Jonathan France, at the conclusion
of a highly satisfactory Tourist Trophy meeting at Silverstone.
His team had
just made its 2005 FIA GT debut (having reluctantly taken the decision
not to race at the previous round at Magny-Cours), and Ben Collins
and Neil Cunningham had brought the team’s Porsche 911 GT3-RSR
home second in the GT2 Class.
a completely straightforward race, but as GT racing goes, it was
relatively straightforward – if a little nerve-wracking towards
In free practice
on Friday, the distinctive pale blue and red Porsche was consistently
third fastest in class – behind the two factory-supported
GruppeM cars. The challenge was to get the Embassy machine as close
as possible to the #66 and #88 cars.
At the conclusion
of Saturday morning’s first qualifying session, Ben Collins
was a little disappointed at the gap – as well as the fact
that the Embassy Porsche was now sitting in fourth in GT2, behind
the Team LNT TVR.
got as comfortable a race car as we would like – there’s
a bit of understeer there, which we’re going to try and dial
out for this afternoon’s session. If we can do that, we’ll
be right there.”
So was it better
in the afternoon?
better, now we’ve got a car we can really race with.”
Both Ben and
Neil were full of praise for Embassy’s race engineer Geoff
Kingston, a man with years of experience at this sort of thing –
getting a car spot on. Geoff is more than a race engineer though,
having had responsibility for the complete design of GT cars in
The Sunday morning
race warm-up was an early session – too early for Ben Collins.
“I was still in bed. Neil did the session, and all he did
was ‘take the tops off some new tyres’ for me.”
He scrubbed in new rubber in other words. Times were completely
irrelevant – so the fact that Neil was slowest of all the
cars in the field meant absolutely nothing at all.
It was Neil
Cunningham to start the race – an early one, at 10.15 on Sunday
morning. Now it was getting to the really serious part, Collins
and Cunningham get on superbly together, as drivers as well as mates,
but now it was time to get down to it.
Neil ran fourth
in class early on – “You made a cracking start,”
commented Ben – and initially sat behind the TVR, of Jonny
Kane. Then the fun started.
while we were all over the track,” said the jovial Cunningham.
“Past the pits one time, I was right down by the pit wall,
throwing dust all over the team, and nearly taking the door handle
off against the pit wall.”
After a battle
like that, it was a relief to see the Embassy Porsche get ahead
of the TVR (on lap eight) – which then slipped away and eventually
into the pits with a puncture.
at all though for the #55 car, which Neil just got on and drove,
hard, as he occupied a secure third place in class, behind the two
His stint lasted
until the fifty-first lap, at which point he dived in for a full
service, and for Ben to take over. Eight laps later, Ben Collins
was back in – and thee mchanics were desperately searching
for a problem at the front left corner of the car.
had a massive vibration from the front left. I’d flown off
the track at Bridge because of it, and pitted straight away, because
I was sure I had a puncture. I didn’t though – it was
just rubber pick-up.”
that if you went off-line to let the GT1 cars through, “you
picked up rubber on your tyres, which took a while to clean off.”
And that, almost,
was the only problem incurred throughout the three hour race.
Ben held his
hand up to a drive-through penalty – “I didn’t
switch the engine off quickly enough, and the guys began refuelling
me before I had switched off”. That was at Ben’s final
refuelling stop (at which point he stayed in the car for the relatively
short stint to the finish), but before long, second place in GT2
was secure, the #88 GruppeM Porsche having lost several laps with
a water leak.
“The car was flawless.”
“It ran like clockwork.”
why we chose to run a Porsche,” concluded Jonathan France.
out to be a very good decision.
Next event for
the team is within the next few days: the British GT races at Knockhill
in Scotland (May 21-22). That’s the main target now –
getting on terms with the Ferraris in the British series.
Notice a very
famous Scot on the podium, with the Balfe Motorsport drivers, plus
Ben and Neil.