Brands Hatch GP 10/11 October 2015 - Ginetta Junior
In what seems like no time at all, we have reached the final round of the season. Geri has only previously raced on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit so the opportunity was taken on the preceding Monday to learn the full GP circuit on an RMA Track Day. A few junors took advantage of this, those that had booked prior to a decision to ban Ginetta Junior drivers from future events due to an issue at a previous track day.
We were greeted with a wet track on the Monday morning having parked up the motorhome in the Brands Hatch car park on the Sunday evening. The RMA organisors had read the riot act to the junirs at the start of the day, any transgressions and they would all be banned. Thankfully Geri managed to keep out of trouble throughout the day.
With the wet track for the whole morning, Geri took his time building up speed and trying to drive smoothly rather than his usual start the day ragged approach and smooth out the driving during the day. So all morning he appeared to be a long way off the pace of some of the juniors, but as the track started to dry in the afternoon, so Geri got into the groove and looked to be going more competitively. Just as the team swapped over to dry settings, so the rain started up again, so we called it a day.
Their were two sessions on the Friday test day, and the weather had turned dry again. Geri was running 15th at the end of the first session having put his best 1st, 2nd and 4th sectors together in the same lap. But sector 3 was causing issues and was where Geri was losing most time.
Session two later in the afternoon did not go well, every other driver managed to improve on their session 1 time, while Geri could only improve by 1/10th leaving him 22nd of 23 drivers. Not what we were hoping for.
Full details from the Friday test sessions can be found here.
Another difficult session trying to get a tow from one of his rivals. A later effort in the session saw Geri go fractionally faster than his best on Friday, but 1.94 off Caroline on pole and back in 18th place.
The drivers lined up in the assembly area after lunch but there were delays to repair the track after kerb had lifted in the previous session. The quick drying cement being used plainly wasn't that quick drying and the delay turned into more than an hour before the cars were finally allowed out on track.
Geri set the 4th and 5th fastest speeds through the sector 1 and 2 speed traps, but 18th through speed trap 3 showed where Geri was still struggling as did the fact that Geri's best sector time was the worst off all the drivers. His overall lap time came down by half a second from the earlier session, but even this was still 1.5 off Proctor on pole and would place Geri back in 17th place.
The first race was scheduled to be held on Saturday afternoon, but as the afternoon dragged on it became apparent that darkness would appear before the race could complete - not good given the junior cars do not have working headlights. Still, it took the organisers until gone 5pm to concede that the race would have to be delayed until 10am Sunday morning, meaning the juniors would be the first race of the Sunday.
Everything seemed fine as Geri left the paddock and drove under the tunnel, but as he joined the track he could tell something was wrong with the car, the engine just not able to rev. The team had the bonnet open on the start line but checks showed that there was nothing visible that could be changed. Geri did the green flag lap barely able to keep up, from the start he was overtaken by the few cars that started behind him before he had even reached Paddock Bend. De Francesco managed to fall off stage right on the run out of Druids but Geri was already being left by the other cars as he came down the Cooper Straight. Rather than continue round the lap, Geri came straight into the pit entrance at the Esses and into pitlane. The team were looking at the engine again, a failed spark plug was suspected but could not be changed there and then.
While sitting in pitlane, the circuit commontators came over and interviewed Geri through the car window, they commented after on how well he had interviewed. Maybe he will get more time with them in the future, hopefully under better circumstances.
Geri went back out for another try but again aborted the lap at the Esses, drove down the pit lane and straight back to the paddock so the team could repair the car in time for race 2. Geri recorded only his second DNF of the season, the first having been due to accident damage at Rockingham.
The team changed the plugs and as best as could be told in the paddock the car would be back to normal again. But only when put under load would Geri really find out.
A bigger challenge for Geri now, he would be starting 23rd on the grid, although we didn't understand how De Francesco was deemed to be ahad of Geri when Geri had passed his stricken car on the track. Not to worry, 1 more place wasn't going to make much difference, Geri had just 8 laps to get as far forwards as possible to end the season on a high.
A good start saw Geri pass De Franceso from the row in front almost straight away and being right on Matthiessen's bumper going into Paddock. Midway through Paddock and Geri followed Matthiessen past Grady, 2 places gained and he hadn't yet reached Druids! On the run to Druids Green and Tregurtha collided taking Green out of the race and dropping Tregurtha to last as he spun across the track and only rejoined after all cars had passed by.
Going into Druids Geri pased Hawkey on the inside and came out right behind Bird. At Surtees the cars were all nose to tail and jockeying for position on the run to Pilgrims Drop. Geri held a tight line through Hawthorn which paid dividends at Westfield as Geri was able to pass Bird on the inside, with Perez up next.
Any more progress would have to wait, as the drivers reached Stirling, the Safety Car boards were already out so Geri had to follow Perez across the line at the end of the first lap, but already up to 17th from 23rd. There was one lap behind the safety cat and the race was back on.
As the cars bunched up ready for the restart, Bird ran into the back of Geri and pushed him into the rear of Perez - so much for hoping for a fin al damage free weekend! Although Perez got away at first, by Druids everyone was bumper to bumper again. Coming out of Dingle Dell, Bailey a couple of cars ahead had run wide off the track stirring up a dust cloud and losing a place to Mattiessen, Geri closed right up on Perez and looked to outdrag him out of Stirling. But Perez fought back, braked too late at Clearways passing Geri at first but unable to make the corner - Geri moved up to 16th place 3 laps into the expected 8.
Bailey would be next up, 1.3 seconds ahead as they crossed the line to start lap 4. Geri pulled back a second of that by Druids as the train of cars ahead held each other up. The train of cars ran in close formation all round the lap, just as Geri came down to Clearways he could see Caroline, Monger and Zelos all pulling into the pits - they had been judged to have jumped the start and given a drive through penalty. Three more places gained, Geri completed lap 4 in 13th place, less than a second adrift of 9th placed Fagg, with Mattiessen, Hadfield and Bailey filling the gap.
The five car train became an 8 car train at the exit of Druids, the group having caught 6th to 8th placed Wooder, Hornby and Day. Bailey was driving defensively but ran wide at Surtees allowing Geri through on the inside and up to 12th and chasiong down Hadfield, now a second ahead. By the end of the lap, Geri had narrowed the gap to less than 6/10th, an altercation at Druids saw Stacey falling back from 5th to behind Geri and Day just rejoining behidn Geri. 13th was now 10th.
Day tried to get alongside Geri through Dingle Dell but Geri held the line and forced Day to back out. Right on Hadfield's bumper going intio Sheene, Hadfield spun round and clouted the wall to the right - geri managed to avoid the spinning car and was now up to 9th, crossing the line at the end of lap 6 just 19/1000ths off Mattiessen and less than 3/10ths off Fagg. Matthiessen passed Fagg at Paddock, Geri almost managing to follow him through. Going into Druids, Fagg barged his way back through. Geri was sure he had the pace to pass them both, assuming they didn't take each other out first, and there were still nearly two scheduled laps to complete.
But it wasn't to be, along the Cooper Straight the red flags came out for the stranded Hadfield, ending the race. Further back, De Francesco had gone off rejoing just in front of team mate Caroline, and then Hawkey beached at Stirling, between them handing Caroline two more places. At the end of the race it seemd he needed one more, having finished one point shy of race winner Proctor who was declared champion.
Post race protests flew thick and fast, the result of which was that Middleton was also judged to have jumped the start, a 30 second penalty dropping him behind Caroiline. The point gained meant it was all level on points between Caroline and Proctor, Caroline now being declared champion by virtue of 10 wins against 4. Our congratulations to Caroline and commiserations to Proctor. A bonus for Geri was that also gained a place, being classified 8th for his 3rd top ten finsih of the season.
Geri finished off 15th overall in the championship, not quite where we had hoped to be, to be fair, but many lessons have been learned, some the hard way. We now look forwards to the 2015 Winter Championship, one year on from when the Ginetta adventure all started.
Full details of the weekend from TSL can be seen here.
Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.
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