The Embassy racing team endured a mixed weekend at Silverstone, with the weekends race results failing to live up to expectations after a strong showing in qualifying.

Promising free practice results saw Paula Cook lapping the full British GP circuit quickest of all the GT contenders with co-driver Neil Cunningham consistently up there with the leaders.

In glorious conditions, Cunningham got the Embassy qualifying session underway on Saturday and immediately set a blistering pace. Setting pole position times before an incident paused the session, the Corvette looked good for at least a front row start, only to be knocked onto the second row late on. Third on the grid was still the best ever starting position for the Embassy Corvette and the team were delighted.

The second qualifying session saw Cook up against the recognised quicker drivers and, unable to rediscover her pace advantage from Friday, she qualified the Corvette in tenth place for Sunday's second race.

As race one got underway, the three leading cars built up a significant gap to fourth. With the JWR Porsche forced to make a pitstop due to a misfire, Cunningham took second place and was lapping comfortably close to the Ferrari which meant that race strategy was going to play an important part in the proceedings.

As the Ferrari made its mandatory pit stop early in the pit window, the Corvette took the lead with Cunningham pressing hard to build an advantage. With a 30 second lead over the third placed car and only six seconds down on the Ferrari, the idea was to make a late pit stop and bring Cook out in front of the pack.

Although the stop went smoothly, an unusually disappointing out-lap by Cook meant that Embassy had missed its opportunity and the blue and white car was never in a position to challenge for the front.

With one or two cars picking up their pace, the Corvette finished a creditable fifth overall.

"When the set-up is exactly as I want it, I'm one of the quickest in the series," Cook said afterwards. "When it's set-up for Neil, he's one of the quickest. It's just a matter of finding the best compromise so we can work together, we might not be individually the fastest, but between us we can be consistently fast enough to win. I am confident we will get there, but it's frustrating when we're not."

Following some typical summer afternoon cloudbursts, the second race got underway on a drying track.

Cook began the race on slicks and almost immediately the rains came. This, combined with oil deposited on the racing line by the struggling La Squadra Diablo, brought out the safety car. As the marshals went to work with the cement dust, the rain stopped and the racing resumed. With his spies strategically located at the outer limits of the track where the weather was approaching from, Team Principal Jonathan France was being updated via text message on the conditions at regular intervals.

This information and the fact that he'd just watched the F3 cars with slicks perform best on a drying Silverstone track, gave him additional insight into deciding his race strategy.

Bringing Cook in early with the intention of sending Cunningham out on slicks while other teams were opting for intermediates and full wets was a brave decision. As the pit stop was in mid-flow, another incident pricked the race officials into action and it became a race within the race to get out in front of the safety car.

The pit stop complete, the Corvette failed to start with the 15 second delay leading to Cunnigham slotting in directly behind the safety car and, as the other teams circulated to join the procession, he lost a lap.

There was nothing anyone could do but delight in the fact that as the rain stayed off, Neil was lapping some six seconds a lap faster than eventual race winners, the Gruppe M 911 of Jonathan Cocker and Tim Sugden. Neil brought the Corvette over the line in 5th in class.

Team boss France was disappointed with the results, but feels there are still positives to be had from the performance.

"Once again, we approached a race weekend looking like we could finish on the podium," he said. "The car is clearly quick enough, especially on the faster circuits, and individually, the drivers have the pace to compete with anyone out there. It's just that we are having a problem mixing all the ingredients to get the best result. We're still moving forwards and I am especially happy with our strategy - with just a bit more luck we'd have been right up there in both races."

 

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