Brands Hatch 2/3 April 2016 - Ginetta Junior
Geri looking ahead to the new season.
All pictures on this page courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography
We had been fairly happy with our testing, but uncertain where we stood in relation to other teams and drivers. Some had looked pretty quick at the Media Day, but drivers do not necessarily run under race conditions on days like that.
We arrived on Thursday afternoon in plenty of time to park up at the top of the paddock even though Geri wasn't due out on track until Friday afternoon.
Friday Practice 1:
Geri got down to the 57s pretty quickly, posting 3 consecutive brisk laps (that would turn out to be his fastest laps) before Connor Grady came to a halt and the red flags came out to abort the session. Geri went back out for another five laps before pitting to swap to new tyres after which the lap times predictably dropped. We ended the session in 15th place, somewhat disappointing, even more so as our team mates were running 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th! Geri was also experiencing issues with his throttle sticking, something that became more apparent as he ended the session, although it also showed in the data and we thought explained why Geri was having handling balance issues.
Friday Practice 2:
A number of changes were made to Geri's car in an attempt to stop the throttle sticking, throttle bodies and linkage were swapped over. The tyres were still fresh for the first few laps, but bit by bit Geri's lap times began to improve, maybe not as much as we were hoping, but he got down to within 4/1000ths of Seb Perez' time. At the scheduled mid session pit stop, Geri came in and the throttle stuck open again. The team spent 9 minutes working on the car while all around were back out on track, but the issues seem to be solved and with time for just 5 laps remaining, Geri finally broke into the 56s first moving up to 6th, then up to 4th in session before the session ended. This was more like it, although just 6/100ths were separating 3rd to 9th places, so no place for complacency here. At least we could approach Saturday with optimism - looking at the data later, we could see where Geri was losing 2/10ths against teammate Cameron, if we could find that we would be on the front row.
Free Practice 1:
Back out on fresh tyres for the weekend. The JHR team meant to line up at the front in the assembly area, but somehow Geri got behind another driver separating him from the pack. This was to prove crucial, as that driver didn't pull away from the pit lane and Geri was stuck behind him until the other drivers had all passed.
Geri lost a couple of laps trying to slow and pick up his teammates, when Geri was just getting up to speed, posting his two fastest laps of the session, the red flags came out for a stranded car. There was just time for an out lap and a flying lap when the track reopened but too much dirt at Graham Hill (result of a secondary incident, the red flags were for gravel stranded cars at Paddock) meant that noone could get near the earlier times. Once again, we were a lot further back than we wanted to be - 12th, although just 0.323 off the front. At l;east the throttle sticking issues were now a thing of the past and Geri could concentrate on his driving.
Qualifying wasn't until the afternoon, and although the sky was cloudy, the weather would hold. Geri followed the Sebs Perez and Priaulx out onto the track, Perez had a lockup at Druids so Priaulx went by. leaving Geri behind Seb Perez. Perez locked up at Druids again the next lap and was holding Geri up, coming out of Clearways Geri was all over Seb coming down the straight and looked to have gone by, but Seb took the inside line into Paddock so Geri backed out and let Kyle Hornby through in the hoipe of finding some clear track.
Another lockup from Seb on lap 4, Hornby went by and this meant that Geri caught right up with Seb at Surtees and was then slowed again. Again Seb forgot to back out on the straight and let Geri through before Paddock. Hornby moved over on the run to Druids, Seb was having a better lap as he and Geri went by, Geri would record his best first sector of the session but going into Clearways Seb ran wide onto the gravel depriving Geri of any tow to the line. This lap would prove to be Geri's best, further attempts would see him caught in traffic. The session ended early with a red flag, by the time the stricken car was recovered (Dyllhan) it was too late to go out again. Although Geri ended up as 2nd fastest JHR car in the session, 12th and 0.6 off the pace was not what we were looking for. The only silver lining was that Priaulx had qualified 4th, and less than 1/4 second off pole, so we knew the pace should be in the cars come race time.
Race 1 (Saturday):
Geri would line up 11th on the grid, a couple of drivers had set their fastest lap as the yellows were out for Dhyllan prior to the red flags coming out, and these laps were disallowed. In front of Geri were the rookies Collard and Harper, although Harper was the scholarship winner. Cameron was alongside on the grid.
A great start by Geri as he went straight through the gap between Collard and Harper on the run into Paddock and maintained the 9th position as the cars climbed the track up to Druids. An attempt to run round the outside of Gamble didn't come off, and so Geri remained 9th, close behind Gamble at Graham Hill and already the front nine had opened up a 3/4 second lead on the following pack led by Cameron.
Priualx peeled off into the pitlane from 7th at the end of lap 3 to serve a drive thru penalty - he had been adjugded to jump the start - promoting Geri up to 8th as they crossed the line, still with 3/4 second gap back to Cameron behind him, Cam having to defend from a whole gaggle of cars. Going into Paddock on lap 4, ahead of Geri, Fagg spun into the gravel where he would be beached, while Lewis Brown would spin across to the infield moving Geri up to 6th place. Alas, with Fagg stuck in the gravel the safety car signs were out by the time Geri reached Clearways, and the gap back to Cam would disappear.
Three laps behind the safety car would reduce the gap behind Geri to Cameron to less than 3/10ths, and although he would now be closer to the front 5, so their squabbling over places would slow Geri down helping the drivers behind him. Geri was right on Gamble as they raced into Paddock, while rookie Bird had fallen back a little from the front two and a large blanket would have covered Bird, Gamble and Geri going into Paddock. Geri's mirror was now full of Cameron's car rather tahn free space as before the safety car bunched them up.
Geri was signalling to Cameron that they should work together but two laps later as Geri turned into Clearways, Cameron was punted from behind and luckily for him there was enough gap to be pushed through, past Geri. Back down to 7th. Geri was now having to defend from Harper who was desperately looking for a way past. Harper got through on lap 10 halfway round Clearways, now Jordan Collard was all over Geri's rear bumper.
Small spots of rain were now appearing on the screen, but were making little difference to the lap times. Geri almost caught Harper, but Collard was hitting him from behind, eventually Geri braked as he was hit at Surtees which allowed Hornby to come past Collard and give Geri some respite, but Harper was now 7/10ths ahead with 3 laps remaining. The chase was on.
Geri pulled back 3/10th over the next 2 laps, with one lap left he was still 0.45 behind Harper, but 3 seconds clear of Hornby who had been slowed dramatically fending off a train of cars including Collard. Perez, Fittipaldi, Grady, Wood, the recovering Lewis Brown and King, the eight cars being covered by little over two seconds. SO Geri didn't have to worry about behind him any more, just the car in front. Geri was demon into Druids on the brakes and closed right up on Harper's bumper. Harper went very defensively tight into Graham Hill while Geri stayed on tyhe normal wide line and came out quicker. On the run down the Cooper Straight Geri was teeing up the last lap pass. Geri went left, Harper crossed in front of him, well nearly in front as he hit the front of Geri's car. Geri got the better run through Clearways, went to cut inside and Harper moved over to cover, then back to the left, and then back to the right, baulking Geri along the way. Geri went for the outside run and passed Harper along the finish straight, unfortunatley just after the finish line - Harper took 7th place by just 6/100ths.
Our car was looking a bit scuffed by the end of the race, Harper had broken the offisde headlamp and cracked the front corner of the bonnet, while Collard had left his mark on the rear bumper. Geri was a little down, the safety car bunching up the drivers had cost him at least 6th place, possible 4th or 5th, but at least he had gained positions and would start race 2 nearer the front of the grid.
Race 2 (Sunday):
The Sunday race was televised live on ITV4, so it was good to be a bit nearer the front of the grid, and very visible. WIth the 2x2 grid being staggered side to side, even though Geri was on the outside of row 4, the car immediately in front was that on the outside of row 2. The grid lined up in finishing order from race 1, so Tregurtha on pole from Middleton, with Wooder and Bird on row 2, Gamble and Roberts on row 3 and then Harper and Geri on row 4.
Geri got off to a blistering start gaining three places straight off the line, while Bird was swamped and just went backwards. His plan had been to follow Roberts, but as both drivers dived for the inside, Geri could see the best opportunity lay outside so he switched back and rounded Bird into Paddock. As they raced up towards Druids, it was Middleton and Tregurtha side by side, then Wooder, Roberts and Geri, Gamble was next up behind Geri with Harper and Collard running side by side on his bumper.
Everyone went defensive at Druids, leading to the front five running round in an orderly line, and they continued as such until Surtees. Middleton having got the better of Tregurtha was leading. Tregurtha would lose another place at Surtees as he ran out wide allowing Wooder to come inside and take second place. The front five crossed the line Middleton, Wooder, Tregurtha, Roberts and Geri, there was a gap of 1.2 seconds back to 6th placed Harper, the same as the gap from Middleton to Geri. Coming into Paddock on lap 2, the front 3 all stayed tight while Roberts and Nicosia took the wide line in.
Plainly the wide line worked, Roberts caught up with Tregurtha going into Druids and tried to go round the outside, Geri latched onto Tregurtha's bumper and the now front five were scrunched right up. Roberts ran very wide on the exit of Druids, still side by side with Tregurtha, the two cars were still side by side through Graham Hill, along Cooper Straight and into Surtees with Geri one car length behind waiting to pick up the pieces. Tregurtha got the better of the exchange, Roberts had to tuck in behind him with Geri now on Roberts' bumper. Unfortunately the Tregurtha/Roberts battle had two outcomes - Middleton and Wooder were opening up a gap at the front, and Harper and Hornby had closed right up on Geri, it was now a 7 car pack at the front.
Geri tried to get the cutback inside Roberts exiting Clearways, but Roberts had it covered, this allowed Tregurtha to break a car length away. At Paddock Geri tried to keep it tight but this compromised his exit speed, Harper took the invitation and just got his nose to the inside preventing Geri from moving right to defend.Harper was through going into Druids, Hornby say glued to his bumper so Geri had to take the wide line round, Hornby coming out in front, Geri back to 7th. And now the front seven was the front nine! Hard charging Lewis Brown had got up to 8th with HHC teammate Gamble now down to 9th place.
Harper lunged past Roberts into Druids on lap 4, Hornby tried to follow him through. Roberts again ran out wide but carried enough speed to come into Graham Hill in front, Hornby had to back out and this allowed Geri to cut inside along the Cooper Straight and retake 6th place. It was now Middleton, Wooder, Tregurtha, Harper, Roberts, Geri, Hornby, Brown and Gamble at the end of lap 5. Hornby was busy defending from Brown so the gap back from Geri to Hornby was now nearly a second. A lap later and Brown had got by Hornby, later in the lap Gamble got past Hornby too. Harper tok 3rd place from Tregurtha going into Druids on lap 7, Middleton was now 3 car lengths clear but the next 5 were running bumper to bumper with Geri at the back of that 5. This was looking to be Middleton's race.
Lap 10, Wooder had caught back up with Middleton, the next 4 were still glued together, until Clearways where Tregurtha now passed Harper, Roberts moving right up on him looking to follow his through. Roberts got alongside Harper on the inside running up to Druids and got a biff for his troubles. Wooder tried to go round Middleton but lost groud, Harper managed to get back on the inside of Roberts while Geri was set to follow him through. Roberts was once again forced onto the grass outside of Druids but kept his foot in and arrived at Graham Hill just in front and on the inside. Roberts put a back wheel wide coming out of Graham Hill which speared him across in front of Harper, Harper went across the grass towards the barroer but recoved and came straight back on the track behind Geri. Meanwhile as Roberts caught his slide, he went back across Geri's path smacking the left front corner of Geri's car with his door - Geri had to back out losing momentum along Cooper Straight, although he was now back up to 5th place, with Harper rejoining halfway through his boot lid but held up, allowing Brown to come through from nowhere!
It now looked a three way battle for the lead, with Roberts some way back in 4th, then a three way battle for 5th with Geri followed closed by Brown and Harper. At the start of lap 12, Geri went defensive into Paddock with the same result as last time, only the names had changed as Brown managed to just get a nose inside. Harper, who had been mighty at Druids all race saw the opportunity and dived right to follow Brown through past Geri, and we were back to 7th again in this very eventful race. Two laps to go, Middleton was defendig from Wooder, in turn Tregurtha was attacking Wooder. This slowed the three down so Roberts was looking to join the party, and Brown was closing fast. Harper was defending desperately from Geri -= race 1 all over again for Geri, although Harper was now placing his car much better, leaving Geri weaving all over the place searching for the gap.
As they crossed the line for the start of the final lap, Middleton led Wooder, Tregurtha and Roberts with less than half a second between then, Brown was a second further back, while Geri was less than 2/10ths shy of Harper. Roberts launched up the inside of Tregurtha into Druids, Brown was now on the tail of Tregurtha as the five car train ran down to Graham Hill. Wooder tried to go round the outside into Clearways, Roberts looked to try and follow but this allowed Tregurtha to come inside, with minor contact Roberts pulled back on Tregurtha;s bumper but Brown was suddenly there on the inside as they reached the pitlane entrance. Roberts dived right to follow Brown and just won the drag to the finish line, the race ending with a win for Middleton from Wooder, then Brown, Roberts, and Tregurtha. Geri had been unable to repass Harper so finished 7th, having to defend on the last lap from Gamble and Fagg who had blitzed through from the back of the grid.
We finished the weekend with 30 points for 8th and 7th placing us 8th overall, but only 4 points off 5th. Roberts was top JHR driver with 40 points from 6th and 4th, while Middleton leads the championship with 67 points. There are still 23 races to go, so plenty of time to raise our game and become part of the title challenge.
Next time out is Donington in 2 weeks.
Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.
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