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ROUND 5 - CROFT: Former British Ladies Rally Champion Barbara Armstrong recovered from a first-corner push into the gravel to finish a fighting fourth in last Monday’s Michelin Porsche Cup Feature race.

Driving the Parr Motorsport Porsche GT3 Cup car #8, Armstrong started on the second row after her best qualifying performance of the season. Rolling starts are still something of a novelty, given her rallying background, and she has had to adapt quickly to the close racing this generates. On the run down to Clervaux she was pushed wide and ran onto the gravel, but recovered in time to negotiate Hawthorn without losing too much ground. She was then faced by a spinning Craig Rapp on the exit, and had little option but to run wider still. This cost her three places, and she completed the opening lap in seventh.

Armstrong then began a spirited fight back that initially had her in a close battle with Paul Mace, substituting for Robert Babikan last weekend in #11. He then spun at the beginning of the second lap after contact with Adrian Slater, and within the space of a single tour Barbara found herself back up to fourth.

Mace recovered well, and was close on Barbara’s tailpipes for several more laps before the Porsche works driver started to establish her rhythm and pull away. Adrian Slater, who had pitted with a puncture, returned to the track just ahead of Barbara but moved aside to let her pass.

Ten minutes remaining and the leaders were in among the thick of the tail-enders. This is another aspect of circuit racing that offers a fresh challenge to Barbara, who rarely encountered slower cars on her rally stages. She coped well on this occasion, and was extended her advantage over Mace as the closing minutes approached.

The gap to third certainly narrowed in those final laps, but her enforced first-corner excursion had effectively put paid to any realistic hope of a podium finish. She crossed the line a fine fourth.

Paul Robe, Parr’s team manager, was very pleased. "She’s made major strides forward this weekend," he said. "She was within a second of pole in qualifying, and 1:28.403 was third quickest in the race. This puts her on a far more competitive footing and, for her first true dry performance, is very encouraging. Her racing brief was to maintain position without being too aggressive and keep everything in one piece. Although she lost a lot of her hard-won effort in that first corner incident, she consolidated well, drove neatly and tidily, and was catching the leaders by the end. It was great to see.

Croft images HERE