Snetterton 19/20 April 2014 - Ford Fiesta Junior
Round 2, Snetterton. Geri raced here last season and gained his best result of the season with a 4th place in race 2, although there was an element of luck involved. But having beaten both Michael and Aaron in that race, we were hopeful of a good result this time round.
After much discussion, Snetterton agreed to make space on the Friday for 3 x 20 minute test sessions, so we engaged Chris Hodgetts to come and help Geri improve on his 2013 lap times. Seven of the competitors were present for testing, only Rob Cox being absent, but disaster struck fellow Daniels Motorsport driver Jessica King who missed 5th gear down the Bentley Straight, resulting in one broken engine and the end of testing for her that day.
Geri seemed to be progressing well, once again Michael was looking fast. Aaron's team had repaired his car in the two weeks since Silverstone and he looked to be going well too. In the final session we tried a different suspension setup, Geri found himself out on track with Michael and after a couple of quick laps, Geri's pace slowed and Michael looked to be slightly faster. Geri reported that the set up was now too loose at the rear and we needed to go back nearer the previous set up.
Saturday morning, and we woke to wet roads surrounding Snetterton, that was unexpected. The team had checked over Geri's car and found the rear suspension on one side was a little loose, that would explain the issues Geri was having. Hopefully that would explain why Michael was quicker?
Geri showed his hand first, within three laps on drying circuit, he was down to 2:26.0, Michael had been straight back to the pits for a quick set up adjustment while Rob, who had not tested on Friday, was just finding his way round again. Lap 4 and Rob hit the front with 2:25.4 before backing off for a couple of laps. Geri did a drive through to clear some space in front of him, but the dry line was now getting drier, and most drivers put their best laps in at the end. Rob lowered the mark to 2:22.1 before a final lap of 2:20.8. The best Geri could manage was 2:23.3 on a final flying lap - this was good enough for second place but 2.5 seconds adrift of Rob!. Sam Watkins surprised a few with third place on 2:23.4 on his final lap, 2 seconds quicker than any other he did. Aaron got progressively quicker over his last three laps culminating in a 2:23.4 to take 4th from Michael, Thomas and Nathan who had a torrid time with a big spin and a car that wanted to be in limp mode. Jessica missed the session, a replacement engine arrived late the night before and Daniels Motorsport were still stripping off the ancillaries from the old engine - hopefully she would still make qualifying in the afternoon.
A dry session, Geri had hoped to get to the front of the queue in the assembly area and go out first with a clear track. But late fuelling of the Nyssa Racing Fiesta ST meant that Nathan, Jessica, Thomas and Aaron were already waiting. And due to a miscalculation, Geri's car was overfueled, a weight check at the end of the session showed as 18.5kgs over the minimum weight limit.
Geri went passed Aaron, Jessica and Nathan straight out of the assembly area, the following Thomas round as they warmed the tyres on the out lap. Geri was hanging back so Thomas would have started his first flying lap almost 5 seconds before Geri. As Geri came down to Montreal, a yellow flag was showing, round the other side Jessica was parked in the slip road between the 300 circuit and the 200 circuit having spun. Geri hadn't noticed the flag, Thomas had and had slowed appropriately so Geri accelerated after passing Jessica's car and passed Thomas to now have a clear track. He got his head down and was getting quicker, but his lap of 2:23.9 was fastest lap for just 20 seconds, Rob came round on his first flying lap and posted 2:22.5, following that up with 2:21.7 the following lap. Geri took 3 more laps to get down to 2:22.7, still a second adrift. On lap 6, Michael went second with 2:22.5, Aaron went second with 2:22.49 dropping Geri to 4th.
Geri was posting consistent 2:22s and was rewarded on lap 7 with a 2:22.2 to move back into second, Michael posted 2:22.3 on his final lap before Rob put them all in perspective with a 2:20.8 final lap after a pit stop to adjust tyre pressures. So second again for Geri, and he had halved the gap to Rob - but there was still far too big a gap to bridge.
When the session was over, Geri was called to Race Control. He had overtaken Thomas under a yellow flag on lap one, the fact that it was after the incident, but before the next green flag, was taken into account, as was his previous good record so he was penalised 2 grid places and given 2 penalty points on his race licence. All that good work to start back in fourth, behind Rob, Michael and Aaron, with Sam, Thomas, Nathan and Jessica behind.
Despite rain having been forecast all week for the Sunday, by late Saturday the forecast was now for a dry Sunday. certainly when we left home, having gone back Saturday afternoon, it was bright and sunny. But ominously as we arrived within 5 miles of Snetterton the roads appeared damp. It had rained overnight at Snetterton - what would the track be like?
Looking at the circuit, the track seemed to have a drying line and we would be the third session out on track. But with the off-line track still looking damp, Daniels Motorsport softened off the rear suspension. The cars lined up early in the assembly area, and late on, the rear suspension was set back to stiff as enough of the track looked dry. The cars lined up on the grid and after a slow formation lap -where Geri was paying particular attention to the location of the marshal's posts, the condition of the track on the grid and how far off line he could safely venture to overtake, we were ready to go.
The lights went and Geri got a great start. In front Michael looked to pull alongside Rob for a moment, but then Rob pulled clear, moved to the left and took the line into Riches. Geri had got passed Aaron, as had Thomas, and was clear enough to move across the track. Michael braked late as Rob crossed in front of him, causing Geri to do the same, and although Geri showed Michael his nose into Montreal, as the cars approached Agostini, it was Rob, Michael, Geri and Aaron. Aaron had muscled past Thomas out of Montreal, but Thomas regained the place until Aaron dived down the inside into Agostini. Both Michael and Geri had a bit of a slide through Oggies showing that although the track was dryish, it was still slippery in places. A fact proven further when Sam spun off turning into Brundle dropping him to last place. The first lap ended with Rob already 1.3 seconds clear of Michael, Geri and Aaron 0.9 and 0.7 further back before a 2.5 second gap back to Thomas. Jessica got the better of Nathan from the start, while Sam had recovered from his spin but was 5 seconds adrift of Nathan.
Rob opened up the gap to 2.8 seconds on lap 2 setting what would be the fastest lap of the race at 2:21.8. Geri dropped 17/100ths to Michael and Aaron dropped 2/10ths to Geri but still less than 2 seconds covered 2nd to 4th. Lap 3 and Geri was next into the 2:22s although Rob was pulling further away at the front, but the gap to Michael was down to 0.4, the gap back to Aaron had opened up to 1.7.
Lap 4 Michael was just a tenth quicker, and Aaron had posted his fastest lap of the race on 2:22.4 closing the gap to Geri back to 0.6, but Geri had closed right up on Michael through the Bomb Hole. Geri had a good run through Riches on lap 5, and as Michael braked for Montreal, Geri dived inside and managed to stop his car in time to make the corner and move up into second place, Aaron following through Touring Car style, and just in time to see Rob disappearing round Palmer. Aaron was now right up with Geri, pulling alongside at the Bomb Hole before Geri managed to hold him off. Michael got alongside Aaron down the Senna Straight, actually crossing the line a tenth ahead before falling back in the run to Riches.
As Geri turned into Brundle on lap 6, the back end stepped out and while catching the slide, he ended up on the grass between Nelson and the Bomb Hole, allowing Aaron to move into second place. Keeping his foot in for a bumpy ride, Geri rejoined in front of a fast closing Michael - Geri was back to 3rd. Geri had to defend from Michael through Coram allowing Aaron to pull a few car lengths. A missed gear change exiting Murray slowed Aaron and Geri was right on him up the Senna Straight. Geri was 2/10ths adrift at the start-finish line but closing fast, he dummied left and as Aaron move left to cover, Geri went right and slotted inside Aaron. Taking a tighter line through Riches meant a messy exit, but Geri made the move stick and regained second place, Michael followed him through for third as Aaron ran wide, just onto the grass. At the front the race was as good as over, Rob was 10 seconds clear as the three cars behind were slowing each other up.
Coming into Agostini, Aaron parked up on the outside of the circuit, front right wheel at an angle, a ball joint had broken taking him out of the race. Michael closed back up on Geri ending the lap just half a second behind. Geri went into Oggies too hot, put a wheel on the grass and got dragged outside rejoining the circuit just at the entrance to Williams, but unable to take a good line as Michael was now alongside - and in front as they started on the Bentley Straight. Going through Nelson, they were so close they almost touched. With one lap to go, Michael led Geri by 3/10ths - but another good run through Riches had Geri right up on Michael's rear bumper. Mindful of how Geri overtook last time, Michael tried to cover off the inside as Geri made his move, but braked too late and ran across the corner leaving a gap for Geri. With Michael taking time to get back off the grass, Geri was able to run the rest of the lap and take his first ever second place by over a second, even if he was 13 seconds behind the winner, Rob.
Watch the race 1 action here
Watch race 1 from the rear camera here
With the grid based on the final positions from race 1, the drivers lined up as Rob, Geri, Michael, Thomas, Sam, Jessica, Nathan with Aaron at the back due to his DNF - the ball joint failure had wiped out a wheel and tyre, but a new lower arm meant he could resume with the day's racing. Having lost his front row position in race 1, this would be Geri's first front row start. We were hopeful of a good start, maybe Geri could get the jump on Rob? Or maybe just tuck in behind and try and stay with him for as long as possible?
What actually happened was that Geri only made an OK start, Thomas came flying down the outside of the straight, Michael passed down the inside, Aaron got a storming start from the back and they all went into Riches together! Thomas had passed Geri and was alongside Michael - Rob had got off clear of the pack - moving across in front of Geri before moving back left rather than hit Michael. Geri ran wide onto the grass allowing Aaron to pass inside him; leaving Riches Geri was already down to 5th place while Aaron and Thomas were fighting hard over 3rd.
Into Agostini and Thomas was nibbling at Michael challenging for 2nd, while Rob had his head down and was driving off once again. Aaron dived inside Thomas at Oggies with Geri right on their tails, but when Thomas moved inside Aaron at Williams, they collided side to side spinning Aaron across the front of Thomas' car. Geri looked to get the better of Thomas down the straight and got his nose in front before Thomas came back and managed to draw alongside on the race down to Brundle. Side by side at over 110mph, Geri was on the outside and would have to concede the corner as they turned left at the end of the straight.
At the end of this eventful opening lap, Rob was already 3.2 seconds ahead of Michael who in turn was 2.2 seconds ahead of Thomas, with Geri just 0.5 behind in 4th. Sam was chasing Geri, just a second further back while Jessica got the better start from Nathan and led him by 2 seconds.
Geri closed onto Thomas' bumper exiting Riches and went down the inside into Montreal, but ran wide allowing Thomas to cut back inside. Geri got a good run through Palmer and was right on Thomas again, before going straight down the inside into Agostini. Thomas hadn't given up and as Geri turned into Hamilton, Thomas appeared inside him to hold onto that 3rd place. Geri out braked Thomas into Oggies, this time the move would stick. Just 2 laps in and Rob already had a 4.8 second lead, Geri was 3.4 behind Michael with a lot of work to do. The next two laps were honours even with Michael and Geri, the gap was still 3.3 seconds, while Rob was disappearing fast at the front.
The comeback started on lap 5, Geri took a second out of the gap to Michael, Thomas and Sam had been dropped and were now having their own battle, and Jessica had retired with water pump issues. Lap 6 and Rob was now over 9 seconds clear in front having just set fastest lap of the race on 2:21.9. Geri took another chunk out of Michael and their gap was now down to 1.8 seconds - with 3 laps left, could Geri catch Michael? Then as Michael and Geri came down towards Agostini, their race gained a new urgency - Rob had pulled into the track exit and come to a halt with driveshaft failure - there was now a first race win at stake.
Lap 7 and the gap was down to 1.3 seconds - Geri certainly thought he could catch Michael, but the yellow flag out at Agostini for Rob was hurting him. Equally, the contest between Thomas and Sam had now become a battle for their first podium, and they were getting closer and closer. Lap 8, one more left to go, and Geri took another 15/100ths off Michael as Michael was trying to respond. Thomas and Sam were still competing for that final podium place, there gap just half a second.
Last lap, drivers were tired, tyres were going off, but there were two battles on the track to entertain the crowd. At the front, Geri was chasing hard and Michael was making no mistakes - but the gap shortened visibly through the latter part of Coram where Geri was very strong. A good clean exit from Murray by both drivers saw Michael take his first win by just 0.727 seconds. The battle for third was decided in Thomas' favour when his and Sam's cars touched and Sam suffered a bent steering arm limping back round allowing Nathan to finish 4th, his best ever finish too.
After an entertaining race weekend, the Fiesta drivers will now regroup for the visit to Anglesey in 3 weeks. Michael now leads the Championship by 2 points from Geri, but Rob's DNF will count as one of his 2 dropped scores when taken into account later in the season.
Watch the race 2 action here
Watch the opening laps of race 2 from the rear camera here
Please see the official race report here.
Check out the Fiesta Junior points standings.
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