Racing – Le Mans Series – Monza 1000 Km – April
Part 1 – The Racing
a long sabbatical year for Embassy Racing but it’s been well
worth the wait.
first stab at their return to the fray, this time in the very hard
fought ranks of Le Mans Prototype racing, was with a Pilbeam chassis,
with Judd V8 power, plus the additional powerpacks in the cockpit
of Embassy stalwart Neil Cunningham and new boy, ex-MG Lola factory
driver Warren Hughes, both men promising to provide a perfect blend
of experience and speed.
showed up some development that would be needed before the chassis
could be raced for as long and as hard as would be needed to register
success in the six race Le Mans Series, half a dozen 1000km races
on the classic tracks of Europe.
The team had
a choice, withdraw from the first two races of the season and make
the required changes to get the Pilbeam up to speed or find an alternative
to start the season that was now just a matter of days away.
a really difficult call but the reality is that our year has been
built around the full Series and missing a third of it would have
been a big blow,” said Team Principal Jonathan France.
was a solution available – and after a frenetic few days of
activity the team took delivery of their new 2007 season car: the
ex-Rollcentre Racing Radical SR9 would emerge from the paintshop
pristine in black and silver as the #45 Embassy Racing entry.
But for the
season opener there was one important difference from the season
‘look’, the Radical carried all-over backing for CLAPA,
the Cleft Lip & Palate Association, the car carrying the CLAPA
logo (and smiley faces) at Monza, many of the team’s sponsors
having agreed to remove their logo decals in order to draw attention
to the work of CLAPA, the only UK-wide voluntary organisation specifically
helping those with, and affected by, cleft lip and palate. It is
a cause close to Jonathan France’s heart as his son William
was born with the condition last year. You can find out more on
and it was finally time to take the Radical to the track, the decision
to take on the new car so late meant that “it was really a
shakedown run,” said Warren Hughes, after running for around
30 minutes. “The biggest problem for me is that I am uncomfortable
in the car so we’ll be having another seat fitting session
tonight. Beyond that it has been a case of a number of small niggling
issues around balance, braking and stability, together with a software
problem which gives us far too big a blip on some downshifts. The
great thing is though that with those issues we’re still not
that far from the pace (4th fastest!).”
popped into the Embassy truck for a chat about progress so far and
immediately there was recognition of some of the issues and advice
on how to best deal with them.
continue throughout the Friday and Saturday practice sessions as
the team got to grips with the Radical and with the almost inevitable
minor niggles that come along with thoroughbred racing machinery.
got his first chance aboard the Radical on Friday afternoon. “The
car is amazing, I need more time, but doesn’t everyone? I’m
pretty pleased to be as close as I am to Warren this early and he’s
a great guy to work with. We had a minor misfire this morning but
we’re on top of that now. We’ll find our race pace as
we get more and more seat time, but so far it’s going way
better than we expected.”
car would remain solidly in the top four quickest through three
one hour practice sessions and things were looking very, very good.
Perhaps too good?
see Warren Hughes again take to the wheel of the #45 car and whilst
the car’s practice session pace was retained, others improved
from their earlier form.and Warren’s best lap of 1:41.420
would only be good enough for sixth in class, this though despite
the fact that Warren was suffering from a bad cold, the Embassy
Team’s hospitality crew were serving coffee, tea and Lem-Sip
for most of the weekend!
By race morning
Warren was back on form and the car and crew formed up in the pit
lane for the first full team photo of 2007, before a short warm-up
But there was
a problem, as team manager Jody Firth confirmed post session: “We
had a rear left suspension member break, not ideal at this stage
but at least it’s better than it happening in the race this
spirit was there of course, the repair was completed in double quick
time and, with the support of the very lovely Embassy Girls on the
grid, the black and silver SR9 formed up in bright sunshine, with
46 other world class sportscars moving off on the formation lap,
and Embassy Racing joining the pack for the very first time. It
was a beautiful sight and a very proud moment for all concerned.
Not so beautiful
a sight though was the appearance of the #45 car back into the pitlane
after the very first lap. “The gearbox won’t change
down, it seems to be an electronic issue,” said a disappointed
The team worked
hard and worked fast but there’s nothing worse than a niggling
electrical problem in the heat of a race: the problem recurred and
with the race pace leaving the hobbled #45 car with no chance of
race success, Embassy decided to continue their run as an extended
test session. There was marked success when the car ran cleanly,
its best lap time proving faster than all but two of the other class
runners, just three tenths of a second off the class best.
that was the high point for Embassy’s race, Neil Cunningham
finally grinding to a halt just short of the pitlane entry, the
Judd V8 having stopped, either a further electronic glitch or an
engine fault finally bringing down the curtain on Embassy’s
Le Mans Series debut. It had been a plucky start but a frustrating
been a very busy couple of weeks,” said Jonathan France after
the race had been completed, the LMP2 class having suffered a far
greater attrition rate than usual. “We’ll take some
positives from this but we’re all motivated to sort out the
always been the key word behind Embassy Racing – fast –
and the next fast action will be to press on with solving the Monza
problems in testing prior to next month’s round 2 of the 2007
Le Mans Series at Spain’s Valencia circuit.