Racing – British GT
Embassy Racing’s Jonathan France Explains All To Paul Slinger
always seen myself having a team. Even from when I was a kid I pictured
myself as team-owner, not a driver.”
This was the
unusual and somewhat unexpected response to my first question from
Jonathan France - the owner of British GT Championship newcomers
Embassy Racing. The question I had posed was “How did you
get to a position where you found yourself putting a team together?”
I had expected a long, tortuous and convoluted answer, and yet Jonathan
had answered it in about five seconds.
of his answer combined with the fulfilling of his childhood ambition
paints a picture of the man himself. A man who gets what he wants,
not by luck or chance, but by lots of hard work – the good
old Yorkshire way.
always been a fascination for him and those early dreams led to
a choice of engineering, with a focus on aerodynamics, once it became
time to choose a university course.
time I left I had job offers from the Williams and Lotus Grand Prix
teams, but decided to go into business instead. I was supposed to
be having a year off before deciding what to do with the rest of
my life, but once I started working I kind of liked having a few
quid in my pocket. One of my biggest regrets though was not doing
what I always wanted to, but now I am actually doing it - at least
I am combining what I know about business with what I know about
motor racing, from both an enthusiast and sponsor’s point
So no more regrets
for Jonathan now.
It was actually
one of Embassy Racing’s drivers – Paula Cook –
who played a major role in shaping the reality of Jonathan’s
aspirations. He got to know Paula through his love of motorsport
and the fact that Paula was a local ‘lass’ herself,
“a big name in Yorkshire” as Jonathan puts it. They
met trackside and got chatting and became friends. Jonathan ultimately
became Paula’s manager when she spent a year away from the
tracks. “She sometimes had a bit of a hard time racing for
her family and I wanted to help her get back into it, I wanted to
see her back out there in a more nurturing environment, something
that would help to bring along her ability.”
her racing with a passion and so she happily sat down with Jonathan
for discussions and they chose a category to compete in –
the Porsche Supercup.
everything was signed up for her but then the main sponsor pulled
out on the day the US invaded Iraq.” A bitter blow, but Jonathan’s
work paid off when he managed to sort out a last-gasp entry into
the publicity-focused SEAT Cupra Championship for 2003.
a stop-gap to get her name back out there really. Single-seaters
were behind her now and she’d done touring cars too, so sportscars
was clearly the way to go. We looked at the US, the ALMS, but we
couldn’t raise the money, and it’s a long way from Yorkshire!”
even a joke, because as any true Yorkshireman or woman knows, they’ll
never stray too far. Not only that, but “the majority of our
sponsors come from the Yorkshire area and that is what we have focused
on in our marketing.” No surprise then that the team launch
was in the prestigious Leeds restaurant Leodis, which remains a
proud sponsor of the car.
tried to get her involved with the Morgan international efforts
but the car failed scrutineering at Donington and then at Spa Neil
Cunningham had a huge accident and Paula didn’t get to drive.”
Jonathan obviously found the grace to forgive Neil (not that it
was remotely his fault) as he ultimately appointed the Kiwi as Paula’s
team-mate in Embassy Racing’s Chevrolet Corvette.
seen in conversation with Beecroft and France, right.
all, as a sponsor I felt on many occasions that I had been treated
very badly. I thought I could do it better myself and I remember
sitting there at Spa after the Morgan had crashed out and trying
to work out what to do to make the next step. Paula’s career
was too important for me to leave to chance.” It is hard to
attract sponsors without a tangible product to sell, but in the
early days that is what we were faced with. It is one of my main
aims though, to treat my sponsors very well.
Foundry Supplies is a name that has been synonymous with my family
for years and right from the moment we decided to set up a team,
the company has underwritten the project. It was Paula who came
up with the name Embassy Racing, but I really like it. By that time
I had become engrossed in GT racing and the dream for me was Le
Mans for 2006, not necessarily in our own car, but certainly to
be involved and have Paula out there racing in France. Of course
to be there with our own car is still the ultimate dream.”
They’ve come true before for Jonathan, so few would dismiss
his chances of fulfilling this one too.
Paula knew Dave
Beecroft (founder of Xero Competition) well and described him as
“one of the straightest men in motorsport”, so it wasn’t
long before France and Beecroft were involved in discussions, which
culminated in Jonathan taking possession of one of Dave’s
beloved Corvettes, to be built to the best possible specification
in the close season and be raring to go for the start of 2004.
quite a good image really isn’t it, a little girl in a big,
archetypical muscle car.”
spoke about a drive for Paula with Xero in the 1000km race at Spa
in 2003, where she went very well, but by the time she was out there
in Belgium the whole Corvette racing team idea was very much in
the pipeline and Dave was working with us.”
is shown listening intently to Paula, right.
So how does
the reality match those boyhood dreams? “It’s not been
easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m no stranger
to hard work. I have to go to bed knowing I have done the best I
possibly can.” The start of the season showed good potential,
but engine failures have blighted their last two meetings.
isn’t much worse than a DNF, apart from a DNS, so Snetterton
and Castle Combe were desperate for us.”
setbacks, the team is moving forward. Glitches during early pit-stops
have now been ironed out and the team is gelling and finding direction.
They have established themselves as many fans’ favourite,
not only for the striking car but also the presentation of the crew
- aided of course by the “Embassy Girls” - and the promotional
material handed out at circuits (well worth seeking out just for
the bags of Haribo sweets inside!).
The girls always
seem to find their way onto the podium and Jonathan will no doubt
be working hard to ensure the Embassy drivers can be up there with
them as soon as possible.
isn’t just about the racing and the show we put on, it has
to be about the winning. That’s why we have the drivers that
we do – fighters who will not give up. We have to drum that
mentality into everyone in the team – even the lad on the
wall with the pit-board. We will be performing what I see as ‘properly’
when we have winning cracked, or at the very least consistent podium
finishes. A fourth on our first weekend was fine, lovely, but it
needs to better than that.”
a long-term future and I would like to branch out into European
racing. The FIA Championship really appeals to me, especially if
it goes more worldwide as it is rumoured to. This would sit well
with our sponsors and give us the possibility of tapping into some
funds in Europe. The problem at the moment is that there are lots
of dates clash between the different series, and the level of competition
is so high that you can’t afford to miss a weekend in any
championship you chose, so we have focused only on the British Championship
So Embassy Racing
is a new team, but with such early firm foundations we will certainly
be seeing much, much more of them in the future. Next time out is
the fabulous Cheshire circuit of Oulton Park where the Corvette
should do well. Catch them if you can.