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Embassy Racing – British GT – Brands Hatch – October 3 - Part 2
Damp Disappointment

Sunday would see a disappointing end to a difficult season for Embassy Racing, Richard Hay unceremoniously dumped into the barriers by an over-eager Nathan Kinch, at a time when fourth place looked to be in the bag.

October had returned to its usual senses for Sunday, with plenty of rain throughout the race, lots of wind too and a bit of a chill to the air. ‘Spray’ and ‘mist’ were new words to add to the Brands Indy dictionary of problems, firmly alongside ‘traffic’.

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All of those are in a day’s work (literally) for Neil Cunningham though, whose strong start saw him up to fifth from his favoured outside line, taking fourth on the next lap with a big move down the inside of Adam Jones at Paddock.

The intermediate-shod Ferraris had an early advantage, but this soon began to fade as it became clear that the rain was here to stay, and it was the soaking type of rain…

The advantage turned full circle on Mullen, who had a half-look at his team-mate at Paddock, got off line and had to take avoiding action to stop him committing the ultimate racing-driver sin. The car snapped round and dumped him in the tyre wall and was beached in the gravel – even Chris Niarchos wouldn’t be able to drive out of that one.

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So with the last podium spot inherited and no pit-stop penalty, things looked good once again for Embassy, but for the stealthy Ultima being driven to great effect by Steve Brady – was it simply so low in the spray that Neil didn’t know it was there? Either way, this duo were hunting down Tim Sugden’s Porsche, Brady eventually hooking up the traction perfectly out of Graham Hill Bend and winning the Chevy power drag race down the Cooper Straight.

Brady went on to snatch a place from Sugden too, but Neil was only three seconds off the lead, so it was most definitely still all to play for.

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The arrival of the Safety Car, to allow recovery of a beached Monaro, was therefore a bad thing as it allowed those behind Neil to catch up. A bad thing became worse as yet another organisational disaster led to the second place Ferrari being picked up, not the race-leading… Ultima! Despite Brady’s best efforts (he practically stopped to allow the Safety Car out in front of him) he was waved by. When will they learn…?

To make amends, the whole field had to be waved through, extending the time the race had to be run behind the Audi.

It did however make it easier for Embassy to decide when to make the driver handover and Neil took advantage of the reduced pace, Embassy making a place up when Hay returned to the track behind Brady and Cocker, Kinch delayed by his 25 second pro/semi-pro handicap.

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Hay was initially quicker than Bonner in the Ultima, but it was hard to be consistent when it was so very, very wet and there was so very, very much traffic to pass.

Kinch was managing better than most and maybe was so fired up by his series of hot laps that he got carried away at Clearways, once the Corvette became his target. Hay describes the last moments of Embassy’s 2004 GT campaign: “I had seen him gaining on me pretty fast and I knew he would pass me by the end of the straight, but I thought he’d let me get out of Clearways at least, I wasn’t expecting him to have a go where he did. He tagged the rear and sent me into a slide – I thought I’d hold it the first time around and still be pointing the right way, but then it went round again and into the barriers.”

The impact was enough to put Embassy out on the spot, with only two-thirds of the race run.

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It has been a trying first season for Embassy Racing, but one in which they have created a huge impression on the championship and its fans. Jonathan France did not kid himself into thinking it would be an easy introduction, or that it would all come right immediately. What he can take away from 2004 is that he has really built a very effective team, one which has shown what they are capable of on many occasions, against some mighty machinery and huge racing budgets. He has also generated a healthy following of Embassy Racing fans, who are doubtless very keen to find out what they have planned for 2005.

Keep it up and better luck next year.
Paul Slinger

 

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