LEXINGTON, Ohio — Catching up with the Tamburlaine camp five races deep into the inaugural season of the National Simulation Racing Series (NSRS), you couldn’t find a race team further from the sea of stormy discontent they were found wallowing in at the end of the last STSC season. Tilly Tamburlaine, daughter of five-time WRC Ekke Tamburlaine, entered the stock car racing arena after a several-year hiatus in memory of her younger brother — and with incredibly high hopes of proving her worth to keep on her sponsors (and, as it turns out, private family funding). After a mid-season decline so rapid and so sharp it caused her primary sponsor Texaco to field a second team driver, the future of Tamburlaine’s career as a stock car driver seemed unstable at best; when it rains, it pours, and “coincidentally” as per on-the-record statements from the Tamburlaine estate, Tilly also found herself facing a $500,000 funding cut from her family’s estate after season end following an extremely harrowing crash while attempting to qualify for the main event at South Alabama. Tamburlaine’s STSC season ended without a single race win or pole position claimed — and, following the crash,with an evident decline in her will to race.
During the off-season, Tamburlaine announced that she was dropping clothing and life-style brand Hot Topic as a sponsor, reportedly a mutual split as the brand had signed on thanks to past affiliation with Tamburlaine family drivers in NHRA racing divisions. No word from the senior Tamburlaine on his daughter’s return to racing, and nothing from Tilly herself up until the last four weeks before season start when Texaco announced that they were continuing to sponsor Tamburlaine provided she transition to the NSRS (allowing them to keep the lucrative Carl Downey in the STSC) and with far more stringent fulfillment conditions attached to their continuing sponsorship. She also turned to more local sponsorship, with L.H. Hayward family owned Camellia Brand out of Harahan, Louisiana, who didn’t have a whole lot to say about their commitment to the racer, but did respond in text to our questions about their sponsorship decision with the short statement: “Tilly’s motivations for racing really resonate with us as a company, she’s in it because of what family means to her, and that’s something we’re proud to associate our name with. The time was right, we’ve been looking to broaden our distribution, and a racing sponsorship with a little more exposure than some of the flat track and short track stuff we’ve got going on down in our neck of the woods seems like the perfect avenue. Best of luck to her in this upcoming season!”
So far that luck seems to be coming through for Tamburlaine — she’s been inside the top 10 in four out of five races, took her first pole at Texas, and been on the podium twice, taking second at Darlington and at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course where we’re reporting from today. Is a race win headed her way this season? To ask her after today’s performance:
“I don’t see why not, honestly — our package has always been about top speed and better cornering, and this series is letting us show off more of that oomph we’ve known we were packing all last season,” said Tamburlaine, shrugging. “I honestly thought we had a shot a winning Darlington, that’s been the biggest disappointment so far, but it’s kind of fun to be able to call second place a disappointment. It’s a nice change of pace. Bristol’s next, and we did well there last year. It’d be nice to take in the sights from the top step of the podium this time. “