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Embassy Racing – British GT – Knockhill – May 21-22
Sunday Race – You Can’t Win ‘Em All

Matching a great overall win in Saturday’s race was always going to be a tall order for Embassy Racing, but they were prepared to give it a damn good try. Ultimately, their luck relating to changes in the weather ran out and this time failed to give them the opportunity to make another inspired tactical choice.

No-one could blame Embassy Racing for thinking that Sunday’s race would be a wet one however. It had rained hard throughout the night and for most of the morning too, and with cold air that wasn’t moving around, it looked like not even a busy race programme would be able to shift the surface water in time.

“We put a softer roll-bar on because of the wet conditions and really the whole set-up was for a wet race. We didn’t expect the sun to come out and a dry line to appear just before the race and by the time we knew we should be starting on slicks, that was the only compromise we had time to make,” summed up team boss Jonathan France.

Almost the entire field also decided to start on slicks, but as the race progressed it became apparent that some of the other teams seemed to have gone for a better-compromised set-up, to give a stronger performance in the completely dry race it was destined to become.

Ben Collins, starting from fourth, was trying hard to get heat into his slick tyres on the warm-up lap and in doing so, almost tripped over the start line. “I wasn’t sure if we were getting two warm-up laps so I was caught out a bit, but it wouldn’t have made any difference anyway, because there was still only one line around the track on slicks at the start and there was no way I was going to risk passing anyone. Once I had got some heat into the tyres after a couple of laps, and it was good to go, then I was ready to push.”

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An early mistake from Tim Mullen slowed the Ferrari and the pursuing TVR of Warren Hughes such that Ben Collins was able to take second place going into Duffus Dip much sooner than he had intended, as early as lap three. “I was miles quicker than both of them and just blew past them, so I thought we could be good for a podium. Once I was past them though, I could only do what the car was good for on hot slicks, which was pitch and wallow around.”

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For the next twenty or so laps, despite the less than perfect handling attributes the conflict between set-up theory and track conditions had created, Collins tracked Kirkaldy’s lap times almost perfectly. The gap between the two moved around between four and seven seconds, depending upon who was having the biggest struggle with backmarkers at that particular point in the race. The Hughes TVR was lurking in third place, typically around ten seconds behind #55, until yet another engine failure put them out for the weekend.

The Ferraris were really on the move now that their tyres were up to temperature and the track was almost fully dry. Mullen was recovering positions hand over fist after his opening error at the chicane and Kirkaldy was finally starting to drop Ben Collins behind, his car advantage showing as he picked off tail-enders with ease. “With hindsight we went the wrong way with the car set-up, but it did seem a good idea at the time.”

Ben Collins pitted first of the lead group, but despite a good stop, Mullen’s continued charge meant that when he handed over to Chris Niarchos, it was a Scuderia Ecosse 1-2, ahead of Embassy’s Porsche, now in the hands of Neil Cunningham.

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Mike Jordan was also able to close up on and pass Cunningham only a few laps into his stint.

It initially looked as though Jordan and Cunningham would take their Porsches up to Niarchos and challenge him for those last precious podium spots, but Niarchos drove very well, even gaining slightly on Kinch running in the lead some 15 seconds ahead. With 15 minutes to go, there was no chance that the order was going to change without a mistake or a car problem and as it turned out, the rest of the race passed without incident.

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A hot and bothered Neil Cunningham emerged from the car having given it his best shot but “Eurotech looked to have had a better car for the conditions. I got in and tried to get the thing to go, but it was set up more for the wet so we just didn’t have the pace we needed. Mike Jordan got the better breaks in traffic, but to be honest, once he had pulled away, I couldn’t match him at the end of the day. It was still good fun though!”

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Jonathan France was not dispirited to have come away with a win and a fourth - and he certainly shouldn’t be. “It was a strange race, and it was difficult for us the way it unfolded. Looking at the warm-up and the weather in the morning we had to go for a full wet set-up. We hoped to have something that would have pushed the Ferraris a lot more than we can when it is dry, so even with hindsight I think we needed to try it. Both drivers drove as quick as the car would go and our pitstop was very slick. I don’t think today was a true reflection of the car’s pace, the drivers’ pace or the team’s ability. We are better than that.”

A point they will doubtless be trying to prove at Thruxton for the next round, in just six days time.
Paul Slinger

 

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