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Embassy Racing – British GT – Oulton Park – July 18

Losing the Monkey

Another DNF from Saturday’s round was the last thing Embassy Racing wanted to see, but with the car repaired – well done all concerned - it was time to make amends on Sunday.

The loss of the RSR TVR from the grid following a big accident towards the end of Saturday’s race had promoted Paula Cook from 11th to 10th on the grid, but this was little consolation following Saturday afternoon’s disappointing qualifying session. Paula knew she would have to get a demon start whilst staying out of the kind of trouble Old Hall often presents the field on the first lap – the kind of trouble that had sidelined the car yesterday for example…

Strategies had already been worked out when the pace car peeled off into the pitlane and racing commenced. “It was a master-thought from Liam actually, he’d watched the race just before ours and had worked out that the outside looked really slippy, so we knew I had to get a good start and dive right into the inside, which is exactly what I did. I got one on the way in and one coming out but I had a great exit speed so took a couple more on the outside down to Cascades. It was a beautiful first lap.”

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‘Beautiful’ is a word you don’t often hear used to describe a racing lap – Paula’s feminine touch?

It was impressive stuff, but the blue Corvette would not go higher than the sixth it held in the early stages. “The car was too soft because of all the wet running we had done and without having any dry data. Once I was in sixth it was just about settling into the best pace the car could do rather than racing the guys ahead.”

The guys ahead were Johnson and Pearce and they were fighting hard, so keeping a watching brief wouldn’t have been a bad tactic in any event. Paula reeled off a string of consistent laps, while recognising the set-up was less than ideal, and she did not want to risk throwing it off at the guard rails, which never stray too far from the edges of the sinuous tarmac here.

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After ten minutes however Paula’s attention had to switch to her mirrors, and the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari of Tim Mullen, which was looming ever larger. For two laps Paula held on valiantly with some top-drawer driving, which was effective but fair. “He gained on me lap by lap but once he was behind me I thought ‘he isn’t getting past no matter what’ but it was a real handful trying to keep him there. Eventually I just couldn’t keep him there any longer and the lap times had suffered too. Once he was past I got back to the times we were doing before – low 43s, which included one of the best laps we did.”

Having looked every which way he could, Mullen finally found a way through and left Paula in relative space. She battled on as best she could until she was presented with the chance to race Godfrey Jones in the JWR Porsche, which was recovering from a spin. Jones got the better of traffic, curtailing Paula’s pursuit, and the decision was made to bring her in for the handover to Neil Cunningham, one of the first stops of the race.

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Neil Cunningham didn’t find it quite as easy as simply jumping in and driving to a certain pace: “I actually had to change my style to suit the car today and get the best out of it. It was just too soft, that’s all it was.”

dailysportscar.comSumpter had been on a big charge behind Paula for the first stint and Embassy eyes were all on his team-mate Mike Jordan as he blasted out of the pits, tagging right onto the Corvette’s tail into Old Hall and down through Cascades. The blue and white car held off the white and blue one as long as it could, but once again the Corvette had to succumb with an inferior set-up. “I wanted to let him through and chase him, but at the very next corner his exhausts flared up and he was off, whilst I was still nursing the car round the bend and waiting to get back on it, so there was no way I could stay with him.”

So it was eighth now but at least there was the chance to gain a place on the Jones twins’ Porsche, Neil picking up where Paula had left off. “I closed on him quite quickly but Jonesy was hard work actually. I had to trick him into doing something stupid by going off line against the pit-wall and making him block, then going through into the first corner.” Clever stuff Neil.

Once clear Neil pulled away and was gaining slightly on those ahead for the last twenty minutes of the race, but didn’t have the pace to get close enough and challenge them. “I was starting to pull them in at the end and if we’d have had longer then we could have been fighting fifth and sixth. At least we finished, and that does feel good.”

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His sentiments were echoed by team boss Jonathan France: “At least we are racing again now and we can make some progress. We have got the monkey off our backs and that was the main objective done. There is still lots of work to do though now, we won’t be happy with sixth or seventh next time, fourth or fifth is the goal….. as a minimum.”

With valuable data gleaned from the race and a month to work through issues with the car’s set-up, the next two rounds at Silverstone should be the ideal venue for Embassy Racing to pursue that goal.
Paul Slinger

 

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