Fortunately a lifeline came in the form of Rory Bryant and the Triple R/Blendini team who offered her a drive in another GT4 Ginetta G50 with Rory as her team mate. Zoe jumped at the chance as she still had an outside chance to win the title and even just a points finish could boost her championship position.
During the practice sessions Zoe got used to the car as there were several differences to her previous G50 the biggest being it’s right hand drive with her previous car being left hand drive. With times not being important until qualifying the team opted to use older tyres but despite this the cars pace was encouraging and things looked good for qualifying.
With new tyres bolted on, Rory Bryant was first to head out the pits to set a time but it soon became clear something had gone wrong with the car. It was very slow and wouldn’t allow maximum revs. Rory came in and the team checked things out. An oil pressure sensor had failed causing the cars ECU to think the car had lost oil pressure. This meant it wouldn’t allow full revs and so full power. There wasn’t time to fix it during the session and Zoe needed to do a minimum of three laps to be able to race. She was sent out to do the three laps but with the cars performance severely limited they would be starting from last place.
When Sunday morning came, the car was back to full health and after a short run in the warm up, things were looking quite hopeful for the race. Zoe would start before handing over to Rory when she came in for the fuel stop.
At the start, Zoe hung back slightly at the first corner to avoid any first corner incidents and then was straight on it, passing one car on the first lap. Within a few more laps she was past another and off in pursuit of the next in line. A safety car was then scrambled to recover a car that had gone off in a difficult position. Unlike at Rockingham, earlier in the season when a safety car had cost Zoe a win, this one benefited her. The cars behind that she has already passed had been lapped as the safety car came out meaning they were now stuck behind it, whereas Zoe and the rest of the GT4 cars ahead could circulate round and join the back of the queue. This not only gained her a further buffer from the faster GT3 cars delaying the time when she would be lapped, (losing time) but it also gave her a whole lap margin on the cars behind. She no longer had to worry about those challenging for position and could put all her efforts into pursuing her rivals ahead. She was soon on the tail on one of her rivals from the season, the Complete Racing Aston Martin driven by Steve Chaplin.
He proved to be one of the widest cars on the track as she attempted to find a place to pass. She tried for several laps but there just wasn’t a way past without taking a huge risk which wasn’t worth it, for the championship fight. After the issues in qualifying, winning the GT4 title was now unlikely without all of her main rivals striking trouble but a top 3 or 4th spot was a definite possibility. By now the pit stop window was open and Zoe was called in to handover to Rory. The car was refuelled and Rory was strapped in. The stop had gone well but it turned out a bit too well as the team were given a stop go penalty for making a stop that was 1 second under the minimum time.
The race and Zoe’s final championship position was now totally out of her hands and all she could do was watch and wait. They were now running an excellent third in class although the fourth placed car was posting faster lap times so the team radioed to Rory to let him know the gap was shrinking. A run in with a GT3 Porsche lapping him cost them some more time which dropped them to fourth in class but they were a long way clear of the rest of the GT4 field.
Things were looking great for at least fourth place which would provide Zoe with a decent haul of points for her championship challenge. With the time left enough for only a couple of laps it seemed the race was all decided when disaster struck. Rory slowed as he headed down the Craner curves. He pulled off the track and came to a stop but got going again. What had gone wrong? The car was running out of fuel. As is usual in racing, the team had tried to keep the amount of fuel to a minimum but it seems there had been a miscalculation. The team got ready in the pits for an emergency “Splash and dash” but Rory didn’t appear. The car finally completely ran out of fuel on the Dunlop straight, literally within sight of the finish line.
Zoe was gutted, through no fault of her own, she had dropped from a possible fourth or fifth in the championship down to 8th (5th in the standings discounting joint scores.)
But there were still lots of positives from the weekend and the season. Over the year she had become the first female to win a race in British GT after she took double GT4 wins and she had multiple podiums throughout the year. Without the bad luck she suffered during the season she would have been right in the championship fight and even with all the problems including missing Zandvoort she had still be in contention for the championship.
“I’m really upset to lose out in the championship right at the end but I’d like to thank Rory and everyone at the team for giving me the chance to still go for the championship and I’d also like to thank my original team for their support at the start of the year and of course my sponsors Supagard and Laird Assessors for their support. Plus of course my family for everything they’ve done for me.”
The team had been really impressed with Zoe’s pace and said they’d be happy to run her in 2014. Currently Zoe has no firm plans for 2014 but she will be hoping to find sponsorship over the winter to continue racing possibly in British GT. This is one racer who definitely deserves the support and the chance to go for a title once more. By Marc Waller