Crash.Net Brit GT News
Embassy steal dramatic Silverstone victory
14 August 2005
Although the weather was kinder to the British GT teams than those who took to the track on Saturday afternoon for the latest round of the Le Mans Endurance Series, wet conditions again played a major part in the latest round of the British GT Championship as Ben Collins and Neil Cunningham took a dramatic victory for the Embassy Racing team.
Overcoming a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit-lane and being too quick during the driver change and pit-stop – series regulations stating pit-stops must be a minimum of 90 seconds – Cunningham hunted down the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari of championship leader Nathan Kinch to steal victory on the very last lap of the two hour race to give Jonathan France and his team a second win of the year.
Kinch was left to settle for second place while Michael Bentwood and Anthony Reid completed the podium in the new look Nissan 350Z of RJN Motorsports after a dramatic conclusion to the race.
Wet weather at the start played havoc with proceedings, with the safety leading the field round on two warm-up laps but being called back into action almost immediately after the green flag dropped to start proceedings, following an off for the GT3 Porsche of David Ashburn and to allow marshals to deal with oil which had mysteriously appeared on the circuit.
By the time the safety car peeled off – having been kept out for an extended period when the Ferrari of Phil Burton ground to a halt at the end of the pit-lane – Andrew Kirkaldy led the way in the Scuderia Ecosse car with Phil Keen having taken second in the Eclipse Mosler and Chris Niarchos third.
Niarchos was soon under pressure from Collins, as the pair battled for position, while Reid and Michel Caine in the Eurotech Porsche also found themselves involved in a big battle for fifth.
However the onslaught of rain would be prove to be key as Niarchos spun off – losing two laps in the process – and making the tyre decision following the driver changes and pit-stops more important than ever. With Kirkaldy pitting in in the Ferrari, Keen charged into the lead in the Mosler with Collins and Caine also electing to run long first stints as Kinch returned to the track but appeared to be struggling off the pace with his new wet tyres.
It appeared that the leading trio would hold the advantage over the Scuderia Ecosse car when the stops were made, and Collins was the first to pit in, Cunningham rejoining the track ahead of Kinch before the team was informed that the Kiwi would have to serve a drive through penalty.
Keen and Caine both made their stops, with Steve Hyde rejoining in the lead in the Mosler ahead of Kinch, but with the Mosler on slick tyres, Kinch was soon able to take the lead as Hyde acclimatised to the conditions. Two spins at Luffield would ultimately contribute to the Eclipse car eventually finishing down in sixth place.
With the Mosler out of the way, second place went to the Nissan of Bentwood who was charging and closing in rapidly on the Ferrari as the watching crowd wondered whether the former BTCC racer had enough time to catch the Ferrari and challenge for victory. However, behind Bentwood, a charging Cunningham was lapping even quicker and as the clock ticked down had moved into second.
Despite being almost seven seconds behind entering the final lap, the decision to send Cunningham back out on his slicks was proving to be inspired as he rapidly caught Kinch and swept into the lead with just four corners remaining to the delight of the Embassy squad.
It left Kinch to settle for second – although with team-mate and closest title challenger Tim Mullen only able to fight back up to tenth despite a stunning performance behind the wheel of the sister Ferrari which saw him claw back a lap, Kinch and Kirkaldy took another step towards the British GT title.
Bentwood and Reid took third in their first race together, the two former BTCC stars helping RJN to its best finish of the year, while Barrie Whight and Gavan Kershaw fought up to fourth in the Cadena GTC Mosler. The Eurotech Porsche of Michael Caine and Mike Jordan finished fifth, with the Eclipse Mosler having to settle for sixth after a performance good enough to seen Keen win the driver of the day award.
Steve Warburton and Sean Edwards took the Invitational class in seventh place while GT3 honours went the way of Andy Britnell and Chris Stockton in the Motorbas Quaife Porsche. Allan Simonsen stole second in class by just a thousandth of a second from the Tech 9 Porsche of Piers Masarati on the line - despite the United Christian Broadcasters Ferrari having lost a lap right at the start of the race after an off for Hector Lester.