Racing – British GT – Silverstone - August 15 - Part
Embassy Move Closer to the Top of the Charts
Two solid performances
from Embassy Racing saw the team re-asserting itself among the frontrunners,
highlights of the weekend being a best ever qualifying performance
of third on the grid, two storming drives from Neil Cunningham (one
in the wet on slicks) and the sight of the blue Corvette leading
the race, even if it was down to the leader pitting earlier in sequence.
also raising its profile by giving away 1000 radios to promote Embassy
Race Radio - broadcasting the race commentary for the whole weekend
on 1602MW. No circuit public address system is a match for the mighty
roars and screams the British GT cars emit, so the free radio idea
was a huge success. In fact even drivers from other teams seemed
to be keen on joining the Embassy Supporters Club, surely they were
not just after a free radio…?
aside, the team was still fully focused on the racing, perhaps more
than ever seeing as they had the swelled ranks of their supporters
club to entertain now. Free practice on Friday had gone well for
Embassy, the Corvette responding well to the tumbling times and
clinging tenaciously to the top six throughout. Team boss Jonathan
France was encouraged: “Paula drove really well, she was top
of the [pop?] charts for quite a while and she was about half a
second quicker than Neil.”
the session sixth after an hour and a half of quickening pace throughout
the field, with Paula’s 1:56.365 set midway through the session.
The format of
the race weekend was an odd one at Silverstone. The very welcome
presence of the Le Mans Endurance Series race at the same meeting
meant qualifying on Saturday, race one on Sunday morning and race
two later on in the late afternoon / early evening.
It was clear
from the practice pace that a podium should be the aim and Neil
Cunningham drove home the point with a 1:57.388 in qualifying. The
time was a second slower than in practice but then so were most.
Neil had ensured Embassy would start from its best position ever
- eclipsing the fourth on the grid from the last round at Oulton
Park. “Fourth at Oulton, third here, by Brands we should be
on pole,” laughed Jonathan France: he probably meant it though...
was great, I only got a few laps because of a red flag in the middle
but at least we are starting from where we should be. I was a bit
cautious through the fast stuff, that’s my excuse. I love
the technical bits, I should have gone a bit quicker but realistically
even if I had we would still be third, but the cars ahead are real
big chequebook cars aren’t they?” suggested Neil Cunningham,
Neil’s efforts on Saturday led to a few bets being traded
in the media centre as to whether he would lead by the end of the
first lap on Sunday - he was certainly going to push hard. Keen
eyes focussed on the pack as it blasted out of Woodcote, this start
was hardly ‘rolling’, it was ‘explosive’!
The lead trio of Kinch, Jordan and Cunningham made an early breakaway
from the pack. “Mike Jordan and I didn’t get the heat
in our tyres very quickly - at some points we were both sideways
together, looking in at each other! It was great fun but a bit out
of control.” Cold tyres aside, Jordan and Cunningham were
still going strong in pursuit of Kinch into lap six, then the white
and blue Porsche faltered from second place, having lost a cylinder
- and the blue and white Corvette moved up a place.
minutes Neil was still battling away in second place “trying
not to let that bloody Ferrari get too far away. It was in a different
league and Kinch is a class act so I was pleased to stay where I
did.” That translated to just seven seconds, with a gap of
over 15 seconds to the Eclipse TVR, falling back in third. This
was an excellent performance from Cunningham and Corvette alike
and Kinch pitted to allow the more experienced and quicker Kirkaldy
to take over the Ferrari, so there was a slim prospect of an Embassy
victory … only possible if the 360 GTC ran into problems.
Second certainly looked possible if both Embassy drivers could
pushing on. Neil continued and led the race for four laps, lapping
at just under the two minute mark, but with a decent cushion
didn’t have too much pressure. Or so it seemed... Jonathan
Cocker had a very subdued stint after early gear selection problems
had dumped him almost backwards at the start. He was well over
half a minute down on Embassy when he pitted as early as the rules
to let Tim Sugden work his magic - which is just what he did. By
the time Neil pitted Sugden was 1:27 down but as ever was really
on it, passing Paula on her out lap and disappearing into the distance.
understand what happened because our pitstop was cock-on and we
had 30 seconds over third place and with Scuderia’s extra
time penalty in the pits we should have come out in the lead. Somehow
Paula lost 30 seconds somewhere on the out-lap, which is incredibly
slow. We should have been sitting pretty in second by the end of
the race, so it is a bit of a mystery,” were the ruminations
of Jonathan France.
With forty minutes
gone, Paula had also succumbed to Greensall in the TVR on Hangar
Straight and now had Mullen pushing hard behind - it was like Oulton
Park all over again. Mullen perhaps remembered the four or so laps
he had taken to find a way past the wide Corvette there, but this
time it was over very quickly - but saw contact between the two
and the Corvette nudged into a spin. “My mirrors were pointing
at the sky and I hadn’t seen him on the outside at Stowe and
eight seconds in the spin, the two minute barrier seemed very real
to Paula and she rarely dipped beneath it, but having said that
Neil’s pace had slumped from 57s through 58s and into the
59s before he pitted. There was a little pressure to stay ahead
of the gradually gaining Mosler in the dying stages but in the end
the Corvette crossed the line in fifth place.