Snetterton 08/09 November 2014 - Ginetta Junior Winter Series

Ginetta Junior Winter Series:
Geri's reward for winning the 2014 BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship was to be entered into the Ginetta Junior Winter Series, held once again at Snetterton. It was to be an experience for Geri, yet at the same time give us an indication of whether we should be aiming to move series next season or not, depending on his level of competitiveness.

R&J Motorsport are a family team running the brothers Jonny and Ryan Hadfield for 2014 along with Ben Pearson. Chris Hodgetts, Geri's race instructor works with R&J so it seemed sensible to take our tentative steps with them. We had already attended a test day last Friday to see how Geri got on in the Ginetta, and in unseasonably warm conditions, Geri adapted very quickly to the challenge of rear wheel drive. The team had expected him to take a day, maybe a dayt and a half even to get to grips with the car, but in actual fact, it was more like 15 minutes. Two sessions with an instructor on board, Chris for the first session and Jody Fannin for the second followed by two more sessions on his own running with Jonny (admittedly in the team spare car) showed Geri was fairly close to Jonny's pace already. We looked forwards the the Winter Series weekend after this.

The weather this weekend was not quite the same although at least it stayed dry on the Friday test day. There had been overnight rain so although the rain had stopped, the track would still be slippery in the 9am first session of the day. Geri came in early in the first session for a setup change, the back end of the Ginetta just way too loose, the changes made a big difference giving Geri a car he could be more confident in. As the day went on, later sessions were drier and drier, by session 3 Geri had a set up he liked and was driting round Agostini.

The team had been overlaying the data from Geri and Jonny's cars to compare the two. This helped show where they were better than each other, and of course where they were losing time to each other. The data also gave up the lap times, and by the end of the day, the team were sure both drivers were running in the top 5 of the 17 cars out on track. Surprisingly Geri was getting a lot of attention from the other teams as the new boy - running in Ryan's yellow car probably didn't help any efforts to remain conspicuous, but the lap times were drawing attention too. And more surprisingly Geri's best effort by end of day was half a second quicker than Jonny's.

Our initial hopes for the winter series were that if Geri could finish top 10, we would leave very satisfied, but based on Friday testing, maybe top 5 or 6 might be on?

We woke up Saturday morning, damp again, but no longer raining. The Ginettas would be second on track after the F4 racers - these would clear the track from most of the water, although the track was still officially described as wet. Ginettas run the same Michelin Pilot road tyres in the wet and in the dry, so no worrying about which tyres to be on - but the car would still need a wet set up to go out on track.

Scrutineering didn't like the windscreen on Geri's car - to be fair there were some cracks across the outside, but the Ginetta scrutineer was OK with it as there were no cracks on the inside. Snetterton's scrutineers took a different view and the team had to change the windscreen quickly before Geri would be allowed out. One of about 4 windscreens being changed in a hurry. This was less than ideal as the screens are bonded in and need time to set - in fact the screen was taped in with copious amounts of yellow duct tape, even a sun strip made of duct tape as Ginetta had run out of them, and Geri's windscreen wiper was left sitting vertically, again to help hold the screen in place. For all this, Geri reported a drafty qualitying session!

Qualifying - Saturday:
Qualifying was an experience like we had never been through before. Geri and Jonny were near the back of the back, so delayed their exit onto the track to leave a clear gap in front. They got round the outlap and were on the first flying lap, but the session was red flagged before the first lap could be completed and the cars returned to pit lane. From the restart, again someone fell off and this time a safety car came out! In qualifying! The idea was to ensure all drivers got their three qualifying laps in, but plainly with Geri having been further back when the flags came out, his best lap so far was more affected than most and he languished in 14th place. The safety car went in and the drivers had one lap at speed in which to set a time. Geri had gone out in front of Jonny, the idea being they would swap places mid session and give each other the benefit of the tow down Bentley Straight. So Geri towed Jonny round and did well to qualify 6th, with Jonny taking 4th 3/10ths ahead of Geri. Geri was 5th through the sectors 1 and 2, but was slower through sector 3, Geri was complaining the car didn't feel as settled from the bridge to the end of Coram.

Race 1 - Saturday:
Geri's first Ginetta race saw him lining up 6th on the grid with Dan Zelos, Jamie Caroline, Patrik Mattiessen, Jonny and Senna Proctor ahead of him. There was some nervousness of our part as to whether Geri would even get round the first corner - but we shouldn't have worried.

Proctor got a better start than Geri so they filed down to Riches in line, with Jonny and Mattiessen running side by side in front. At Riches, Geri ran into the back of Proctor, while Jonny got spat off to the left, leaving a gap for Geri. Proctor ran alongside Matthiessen in the run to Montreal, Matt Chapman went down the inside of Geri before Montreal while Billy Monger dived down the inside round Montreal pushing Geri back to 7th - welcome to Ginetta Juniors!

Geri's bonnet was already flapping open on the left side, presumably from the hit into Proctor. Geri got a better run out of Palmer and tried to take Monger down the outside - running into Agostini he was still outside Monger and right on the tail of Chapman, but Monger quite rightly used all the track and hung Geri out on the grass, costing him a few car lengths as the pack in front pulled away. Another lesson learned.

Photo courtesy Laura Manning

By the time Geri reached Brundle, the yellow flags and safety car boards were out, Flashman Finnerman had gone astray on the first lap. There ensued a frantic lap behind the safety car, the Ginettas bunch up with much better discipline than with most club series and Geri was determined not to lose any more places. Late on lap 2, the safety car came back in and the race was back on. Geri got a decent exit from Murray and crossed the line 4/10th behind Monger but 8/10ths ahead of Harry Mailer behind him. On lap 3 Geri gained just 4/100ths on Monger but stretched out the gap behind him. Up front just 0.65 separated the front four.

Lap four and Geri was getting closer to Monger down the straight, a good drive through Riches left Geri even closer. He went inside into Montreal, Monger trying to shut the door too late as Geri showed he has learned the @quot;Ginetta" way, pushing his way through the narrow gap going into the corner. Geri exited Montreal in 6th place, the two cars in front were only a couple of lengths ahead. By Agostini Geri was right up on Chapman and the chase for 5th place was on. Barely a car length apart down the Bentley straight, through Brundle and Nelson. Geri took a look down the inside round Coram but Chapman covered him off. As they crossed the line, Chapman led Geri by just 4/10ths, Mattiessen was 4/10ths ahead of Chapman, while Monger was little over half a second behind Geri. This was a whole new level of competition for Geri.

Geri stayed right in the thick of it all the way round the circuit in the middle of a 5 car train, Matthiessen, Chapman, Geri, Monger and Lewis Brown all covered by less than 1.6 seconds. Geri got a tap from Monger through Coram which cost him time correcting the slide and allowed Chapman to open up a gap, now Geri was a second adrift of 5th as the last lap board was shown. Lap 5 was Geri's fastest lap of the race with both his best sector 1 and 2 times, the whack at Coram costing him a second based on most other laps.

Monger returned the favour going into Melbourne but Brown hit Monger which gave Geri a whack on the way out, putting them both on the grass - Geri's bonnet was now flapping both sides. Lewis Brown went through while Geri got back on the track, Harry Mailer followed him through so although he had repassed Monger, he had still dropped 2 places in one corner. Worse was to come, the bonnet was flapping enough that Geri couldn't see Oggies and went in too deep losing another place to Monger. He finished the lap and the race in 9th place, more than we would have initially hoped for but inexperience in the world of Ginetta had cost him a solid 6th in his first race.

Back at the garages the team were working hard. Jonny's off had cost a bonnet so a new bonnet was already being fitted, and now Geri needed a steering rack and a set of bonnet pins. And to tape up some scuff marks all round! With a tight race scheduled, there was just time for cursory alignment checks before the cars were back out on the grid for race 2.

Race 2 - Saturday:
With grid positions being taken from the finishing places of race 1, Geri was further back on the grid this time, in 9th with Jonny starting back in 16th place.

Geri didn't get the best of starts, but was still holding onto his 9th place as he turned into Riches, but with Jonny just coming into vision outside him. As they rounded the corner, Zelos was sideways across the track, drivers trying to take avoiding action. Chapman failed to avoid and it was race over for him, while Zelos would limp back into the race. Geri was hit by Jonny as they both swerved to miss Zelos, Jonny able to take advantage and pass Geri round the inside of Montreal. Geri chased Jonny down to Agostini and round the cars went, Caroline had a small lead over the cars behind, Geri being in 7th at this point. Coming out of Oggies, Brown made a move inside Monger moving them both outwards and Jonny accepted the invitation inside and passed them both as they turned onto the Bentley Straight.

At the end of the first lap Caroline led by a second from Proctor with Mattheisson clse behind in third, then Hadfield (4th from 16th in a lap), Brown, Monger and Geri. Geri moved right onto Monger's rear bumper out of Montreal and then chased down to Agostini. He looked to go inside Monger, but Monger moved inside Brown and as they exited Agostini, Brown was on the grass and Geri cut inside Monger to gain two places and moved into 5th place, but nearly two seconds behind Jonny.

Photo courtesy Laura Manning

Two laps gone, Geri in 5th but the lead car in a 4 car train, Geri, Monger, Brown and Mailer separated by 1.1 seconds. Geri was towing 3 cars round the circuit, a lap later the 4 cars were separated by just 0.8 seconds while Geri had dropped another tenth to Jonny. Round they went again but Geri was struggling through Coram and on lap 4 Monger found a gap round the inside and made the pass stick. Now it was Monger, Geri, Brown and Mailer running 5th to 8th and still just 0.8 seconds apart.

Geri got a better run out of Murray, they crossed the line with Geri just 15/100ths behind but running outside. They both waited for the other to brake, but Geri left it latest and passed Monger just as he turned cleanly across the front into Riches. Geri was faster through sectors 1 and 2 but once they reached Brundle, Monger would close right up again. Geri was back in 5th and while Monger wasn't giving up on 5th place, the gap across the 4 cars back to Mailer was back up to 1.6 seconds.

Photo courtesy Laura Manning

Final lap, Geri had a gap of 35/100ths to Monger, while Jonny was now 2.5 seconds clear up in 4th. Geri could still make a gap in the section from Montreal to the Bentley Straight, but once again, Monger could catch up from Brundle onwards. Last lap, last big effort and Monger closed right up, taking a big bite out of Geri's rear bumper through Coram, but Geri kept it straight and made it to the finish line taking 5th place by 3/10ths from Monger. His first top 5 finish.

WE could retire back to the hotel feeling pretty good. Jonny had a storming drive through the back gaining 12 places on the first lap, but Geri was happy to have gained 4 places through the race and held off the attentions of the three cars behind. Looking at the times, Geri was second fastest across the Sector 1 speed trap and the finish line, and only Caroline did a faster sector 1 time. Hooking his best sectors together would have produced a very competitive lap time. More familiarity with the car will bring the consistancy that Geri shows in the Fiesta to go with the raw speed.

Qualifying - Sunday:
Sunday morning, pouring rain and a streaming wet track. Everything we had learned yesterday would be of little use with completely different track conditions. Caroline was in a class of one up front finishing more than 2 seconds ahead of Matthiesson. Geri was as high as fourth after 2 laps so our hope levels were up, but the other drivers got quicker once the rain had stopped, and Geri took until lap 5 to go quicker, but by now only good enough for 9th. The final lap saw Geri set his best first sector but then outbrake himself into Agostini. Figuring he must have ruined the lap, he backed off to play with the brake bias - but finished just 0.6 adrift of his best time. With the benefit of the Vbox delta information as in his Fiesta, he would have realised a decent lap was still on. Another lesson learned - when you have the ability to get live data, keep that ability in place. Next season we must ensure we have the Vbox up and running, whatever car we are driving.

So, a qualifying position of 9th was lower than we were hoping for, but given the conditions we were pleased Geri brought the car back still Ginetta-shaped. With the confidence of having converted 9th to 5th yesterday, and having watched Jonny's video to see how he charged through, we were still confident Geri could move forwards again in the race.

Race 1 - Sunday - First Part:
Geri lined up 9th on the grid, in front of him were Caroline, Matthiessen, Mailer, Brown, Benjamin Wallace, Zelos, Jonny, Monger, with Ben Green alongside on row 5, Perez and Finneran right behind him. Too much wheelspin from the start did Geri no favours, Perez, Finneran, Green and even Proctor starting back on row 8 all got past on the run to Riches. Geri got back inside Perez on the run out of Riches and towards Montreal, a move helped by a spinner where Geri went insde and Perez went outside, so 2 of the places regained. Alex Day was challenging round Palmer but Geri had the inside line and maintained that through Agostini coming out back in front.

Geri was pulling away from Day down the Bentley straight, but coming under the bridge, the yellow flags were out. Turning into the Esses and Monger was facing the wrong way down the track, and on the run to the Bomp Hole, Wallace was on the grass outside the track, coming back on just as Day arrived on the scene. A few yards further along Jonny was travelling slowly. The green flags were out and Geri had already pulled a decent gap away from Wallace. At the end of lap 1, Geri was now 6th.

The gap to Wallace all but evaporated at Montreal as he closed right up on Geri but lost time coming back out. Geri was closing on Proctor, and cut back inside exiting Agostini as Proctor moved right over to the left of the track forcing Geri over. Wallace was able to take advantage go round Geri at Hamilton, moving back up into 6th. Day was catching up with Geri while Wallace also got by Proctor. Two laps in and it was Caroline, Matthiessen, Zelos, Mailer, Wallace, Proctor and then Geri. Proctor was over a second ahead of Geri, but Geri was quicker again on lap 3 and closed up on him towards Agostini. A good run out of Agostini folowed and Geri tried to pass Proctor round the outside at Hamilton, but found himself eased onto the grass, this time not enough to lose him another place.

Coming out of Murray, the yellow flags were out, followed by the safety car boards, but as Geri crossed the line the race had been red flagged. Connor Grady had a tankslapper some way behind Geri and had been collected broadside by Lewis Brown, causing the race to be stopped and the drivers drove back round and parked up in pit lane. After much deliberation, the decision was taken to re-run the race as a 3 lap sprint. taking the grid positions from the end positions on the red-flagged race.

Race 1 - Sunday - Restart:
A much better start this time saw Geri pull away from Day, starting alongside him, pass Mailer before Riches and go inside Matthiessen through Riches, the 44 car having got off to a bad start. Mailer and Matthiesen were rubbing their way along out of Riches, Geri was already up to 4th behind Caroline, Zelos and Proctor. Coming into Montreal they were almost 3 abreast, Geri just in front with Mailer going inside and Matthiessen going outside - but being wet it was the outside line that had more grip and Matthiessen moved up into 5th right on Geri's rear bumper. If Geri wanted to end the weekend as top rookie, Matthiessen was his main competition.

Matthiessen got inside Geri through Palmer and they ran side by side to Agostini, Geri losing the place as he was forced to run outside. Mailer camne thought with an attempt to pass, but Geri managed to hold him off. The pressure eased at Oggies as Mailer ran off the track going outside Geri, leaving Geri able to concentrate on Matthiessen in front. Lap one ended with Caroline already 3.5 seconds ahead of Zelos, in turn almost three seconds ahead of Proctor. Matthiessen was right on Proctor's bumper and 8/10ths ahead of Geri. Coming out of Hamilton, Matthiessen was across the track sideways having spun, Geri got through cleanly, behind him Day went outside as another car span off inside and the gap behind Geri multiplied. More important, Geri was up to 4th again. Two laps done, Caroline's lead was now 6.5 seconds from Zelos, with Proctor 3.5 further back and 2 seconds ahead of Geri. Behind Geri, the gap was now 4.5 seconds but 5th placed man was Jonny! Matthiessen had recovered from his spin but was now 12th.

One lap to, too much to do to make it to the podium. Proctor was 3 seconds ahead, Jonny more than 4 behind. So a lonely last lap, other than watching the fun in his rear mirror at Coram when Mailer tried to go inside Jonny, a move which ended with them both sliding backwards across the grass. Geri finished 4th, ever improving, while Caroline srolled to a 10 second win from Zelos, with Proctor third. Matthiessen recoved to 6th meaning Geri would need to beat him again if he wanted that best rookie position.

Race 2 - Sunday:
The best thing about finishing 4th was that the grid positions for race 2 were decided by finishing order from race 1, rather than second best qualifying position. So Geri would start on the second row alongside Proctor. The grid lined up Caroline, Zelos, Proctor, Geri, Day, Matthiessen, Fagg, Jonny, Mailer, Finneran, Green and Perez.

Too much wheelspin again, Matthiessen ran into the back of Geri, but that just allowed Day to hold on to his 5th place, keeping Matthiessen back in 6th. Matthiessen moved past Day into Agostini and would close right up on Geri at Coram, but as they came out of Murray, what a surprise, the safety car boards were out again. Jonny had made good progress and moved up to 6th by the time the yellows were out. A single lap behind the safety car meant there were still four laps to go, Geri was in fourth. Could he get a podium in his first Ginetta Junior weekend?

Back under green and racing off towards Riches, with the grid all closed up. Jonny moved inside Mattiessen on the entry to Hamilton, coming out Finneran spun while inside Mattiessen and they both went off with other cars flying off everywhere taking avoiding action. The front five now had a decent gap back to 6th. Through Coram and Geri was closing right up on Proctor who seemed hesitant on the run into Murray. Geri went outside and turned into Murray where he was eased out onto the grass, coming back on just as Jonny came through. From trying to take 3rd, Geri had fallen back to 5th.

Photo courtesy Ashley Bryant

Geri chased hard, Jonny was closing on Proctor and the two touched going towards Hamilton, Proctor spearing off outside promoting Jonny to 3rd and Geri back to 4th. Geri got a better run out of Palmer and Jonny didn't cut across to defend, Geri wasn't waiting for a second invitation and he dived inside into Agostini and into 3rd place. There were still three laps to go - Geri had to finish to be top rookie as he had seen Matthiessen's car stranded off circuit - but there was still the small matter of a 3rd place to keep hold of.

Just as in testing, there were parts of the track where Geri was quicker than Jonny, and parts where Jonny was quicker than Geri - the pair closed up and then spread out througout the final laps, but Geri held on to take 3rd place and with it, top rookie. When the points were worked out, Caroline was obviously champion, having won all 4 races, with Zelos second and Proctor third, having lost some points in penalties on Saturday. Geri finished 4th overall, just 5 points adrift of Proctor. If he had not been mugged on the last lap of race 1, Geri would have been thord overall!

And that brings Geri's season to the end. We would like to that R&J Motorsport for running us over the weekend and now the work begins to find funding to run in the Ginetta Junior series for 2015.

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