Silverstone 29 April 2017 - Toyota MR2
After missing the first 2 BTCC rounds, we knew Geri needed some race practice. He also needed to get some signatures so he can upgrade to International C licence. This would leave him able to race in British GT should an opportunity arise, and also he nees this upgrade in order to start out on his ARDs instructor course. We saw an advert from Rogue Motorsport offering arrive and drive races in the Toyota MR2 Championship run under the auspices of the 750 Motor Club. The prices looked too good to be true, but we got in touch and they really are that good!
We could have tested the day before, but in all honesty, we're not looking to win the championship, we were looking for a bit of race practice. And figured it would be a challenge for Geri to jump into a strange car and go straight out into qualifying! So after a bright and early arrival at Silverstone, we met the team. made sure Geri was comfortable in the car (the seat was moved) and we sat around for a while waiting for the 9:25am session to start. With 15 minutes, we figured on 11 or 12 laps.
The plan was to go out and complete three laps while learning how the car drove, Geri hasn't even raced with a standard gear change since September 2014, his last 49 races have all been in a Ginetta Junior wth sequential shift. Of course, as Geri pointed out, he now drives on the road so has plenty of practice at changing gear in his road car.
Geri lined up near the back of the 35 cars (that's right, THIRTY FIVE cars) out in qualifying - actually there were 36 as there was a stray Mazda MX-5 circulating, not sure why. First lap was simply drive round, a bit of weaving to get some heat into the tyres and then build up speed. The second lap was quick enough to get around 20th, he slowed up again to make a gap in front and then posted 1:11.18 on lap 4 which was 3rd quickest!. Another slow lap before improving to 1:11.15, but other drivers were getting up to speed and Geri dropped back to 4th. Lap 9 and he was up to second with 1:10.47 which would remain his fastest lap, but on the final lapped he would be pushed back into third place by just 4/100ths, but 0.61 off the lead car. A good start to the weekend then!
Race 1 was scheduled for midday, in the end the day was running a little earlier. Another surprise for Geri was the lack of formation lap - the MR2s drove from the assembly area to line up for the race. Not much opportunty for getting heat into the tyres. This would be a leap into the unknown - Geri's first attempt at a standing start in an unknown car, coupled with wondering if Copse would be flat on the first lap, on cold tyres!
We shouldn't have worried, Geri got off to a decent start, and while the Class C MR2 Roadster alongside him on the grid got a nose in rront, power soon told and Geri wss safely back in third placeas they ran through Copse. The first lap finished with the #27 car 3/10ths ahead of #31 with Geri in 3rd place in the #5 car (50 had been taken!). Geri was carying more speed through Copse, and more into Brroklands, as they exited Luffield on lap 2, the #31 was alongside #27 and indeed crossed the line 2/100ths ahead with Geri 8/10ths behind, the #83 Class C car 4/10ths further back. Being 200kgs lighter, the Roadster was able to brake later and corner quicker, but lost out down the straights - this had been the decider when Geri was asked which class he wanted to race in.
#27 made it to Copse first, being on the outside #31 had to back out which allowed Geri to pull alongside on the run to Becketts, but it was Geri's turn to back out as the inside line was the best one here. #83 was now just 2/10th behind Geri. On lap 4 the #31 car went down the inside of #27 at Becketts, Geri chased up Wellington Straight, took a wider line into Brooklands before cutting back inside #27 but coulkd only get the front wheel level with the rear wheel of the car in front. The race was hotting up, the front four crossed the line less than 0.7 apart with Geri 0.5 off the lead. Geri was getting just the sort of workout that Ginetta Juniors were famous for - and so far without the contact!
#27 got inside #31 running down to Becketts, Geri tried to follow through but the two cars in front came out side by side and just as #31 started to pull clear, Geri pulled alongside #27 on the outside of Wellington Straight. Geri had to guve way at Brooklands, but then after almost running into #27, Geri dropped into 2nd gear which gave him a better launch out of Luffield. The front three crossed the line 0.32 apart, the front pair just 0.04 apart. But #27 was on the inside and slowly pulled in front of #31, Geri followed him through and used all the track at Copse to move into 2nd place. #31 pulled alongside running towards Becketts, again Geri just used all the track and eased #31 outwards so came out of Becketts still in second place. But #31 was quicker down the straight and repassed Geri on the inside of Wellington Straight, Geri had to concede at Brooklands. Back to 3rd, but there were 6 cars involved in the lead battle.
Geri nearly ran into #31 as they entered Luffield so dropped back into 2nd, nailed it and aimed for a gap inside but them missed 3rd gear, which droped im back to 5th and as lost pace before finding the gear again, and almost back to 6th as #83 (the Class C Roadster) and #4 got by. Geri responded immediately, a better exit from Becketts saw him able to pass #4 on the outside of the straight and he was gaining on #83 - while up front the two leaders were now pulling away. At Brooklands, Geri was marginally in front so had to go round the outside, small contact from #4 on the inside caused him to lose grip, have a bit of a wiggle and run across the inside kerb before rejoining right behind #4 again. This incident earned #4 and Geri a trip to the Clerk afterwards, Geri was cleared of any wrongdoing, maybe harshly #4 was given a verbal warning.
Another missed 2nd-3rd gear change, this time slotted neatly into 5th before going bacvk and trying again meant that #4 was almost a second ahed of Geri at the end of lap 7 with #8 almost alongside and 0.11 behind. Lap 8 and the gap either side to #4 and '8 remained constant after another gear change disaster changing down at Brooklands, but the lead pair how now broken free from 3rd placed #83.
Geri started to relax again, and gained 3/10th on lap 9 and had the gap down to 0.34 at the end of lap 10 - Geri had also broken free from #8 who had dropped a couple of places, #6 was now in 6th but 1.3 behind. Lap 10 saw #83, #4 and Geri 3 abreast down Wellington, Geri tried to tough it out on the outside and then cut back inside. The two in front all but touched but a double cut back didn't work out for Geri so he remained 5th.
#4 got slightly sideways through Copse, Geri was gaining fast, but over to the right was a backmarker about to be lapped. #4 tried to move over and lean on Geri so he would have to back out, but Geri was having none of it and blasted through the ever narrowing gap to get back into 4th place, and 3rd in class, where he remained. We then found there were class trophies, so the first pot for this season is already in the bag!
The grid for race 2 was later in the day, the grid order was defined by fastest lap sequence during race 1. This worked well for Geri, his best lap was third fastest, and the pesky #83 Class C MR2 Roadster was 4 places further back - being 200kgs lighter it could brake later and corner quicker, so had proven difficult to repass.
Another good start from Geri, and although the #18 car alongside temporarily nosed ahead, by Copse Geri was firmly back in third place, chasing down #27 and #31 - again. At the end of the first lap, the front 5 were almost evenly spaced approx. 0.5 apart, the exception being Geri was 0.7 behind #31, but by lap 2 he had brought this back a couple of tenths and was 9/10ths clear of #4 behind.
Another good run through Copse saw Geri closing right up on #31 on the run towards Beckett, the car in front braked very late, locked up and just clipped the #27 car on the back left corner as he had turned in, spinning the lead car out gracefully to the inside. Geri took advantage of #31 having to correct the slide and pulled his nose slightly ahead running down Wellington Straight, but Geri had already learned that #31 seemed quicker at the top end. And sure enough, Geri had to tuck in behind a very late braking lead car at Brooklands, mindful of the events in race 1 when he had tried to brave it out on the outside.
Picture courtesy of Joshua Barrett Photography - Geri in the Black/Red car
Lap 3 ended with Geri now in second place, but having given up time at Brooklands, was 0.6 behind #31 and just 0.2 ahead of #4. But Geri was carrying more speed and gaining fast, out of Copse and Geri kept it tight and ran inside #31 on the run to Becketts, again getting fully alongside. #31 wasn't rolling over and braked late again, just getting across towards the apex so Geri had to back out. Time to try something different!
Up Wellingtion Straight, #31 stayed over to the right as Geri moved up behind him and then at the last moment dived inside at Brooklands to go for the lead. He couldn't quite stop it, a quick lock of the brakes and #31 staying with Geri meant they came together just as Geri had done with #4 in race 1. This time there was a double kiss, and the second touch spun #31 round as Geri took the lead, although suspecting a visit to the Clerk's office may come later!. His door mirror had been folded in during the touch and Geri couldn't see where #4 was, so left a little too much room as he moved the mirror back. Just enough to invite #4 through the gap, #4 crossed the line first although Geri pulled alongside on the outside towards Copse. Geri went for the cut back inside coming out of Copse but couldn't get past.
At this point, Geri lay second of a pack of 6 cars all in contention, these having broken free of the following group. There then followed a few laps with Geri trying everything he knew bar nudging #4 off (Ginetta Junior style?) and #4 defending as if his life depended on it. This allowed the cars behind to close right up, on lap 9 #18 drew alongside up Wellington Straight, but with Geri having the inside line, he was easily able to defend. A lap later, #18 fell back a second and take the pressure off Geri from behind.
Geri was still trying to unsettle the race leader trying every line in the book looking for a cut back or an opportunity to get inside. The last two laps had yellow flags showing at the end of Wellington Straight, and at on the inside at Brooklands costing an opportunity. Geri was right on #4's bumper as they came across those for the first time. The race ended with Geri in second place, just 0.29 from the race win!
Another race, another podium. And a trip to see the Clerk who gave Geri a verbal warning for his move on #31, so no signature for that race. We had a great time racing with the MR2 bunch, met a lot of good people and the racing was as close as a Ginetta Junior race without the pushing and shoving. We will have to consider a return.
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You can watch race 2 here
Next up, it's back on the BTCC tour finally as Geri races in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge at Thruxton.