Donington Park 16/17 April 2016 - Ginetta Junior

Ginetta Junior:
Somewhat confusingly, Donington set the pre-weekend Friday to occur on the Thursday! And even more confusingly, we still went there on the Friday to partake in the official Ginetta Test day for the circuit - so a four day stay for us.

Thursday Free Practice 1:
With a greasy track expected judging by the roads en route to the circuit, Geri spent the first few laps checking out the track and reacclimatising with Donington. Having not tested here in 2016, the last time Geri had driven the circuit was at round 2 last year Once he felt comfortable Geri upped the speed and was up to 7th place on lap 5 of the session. Geri was putting in good sector 1 times and then losing out in traffic, but on lap 11 he was up on his best 2 sectors in. Unfortunately he came right up on the bumper of a teammate along the back straight, and rather than move over to allow Geri to pass unhindered, he slowed as he was coming into the pits that lap costing Geri a faster lap.

Four laps later the session was red flagged, Dhyllan was stuck in the gravel at Redgate, Geri rejoined for the last 3 laps on new tyres and so couldn't improve on his time while others all suddenly went much faster leaving Geri back in a perhaps unrepresentative 13th place

Thursday Free Practice 2:
Everything was bone dry in the afternoon. Discussions during the day with Ginetta brought about a change to the rules, for this weekend at least. Being a triple header with qualifying as the first session on Saturday, it was originally stated that the teams could use the new weekend tyres for the second session on the Friday. But at Donington, pre-weekend Friday falls on the Thursday, and there is a separate morning's worth of testing lined up for tomorrow. Michelin didn't have space to store all the tyres to prevent any abuse overnight, nor did most of the teams have enough wheels to give them up completely for tomorrow. So we will now be qualifying on brand new tyres, an interesting twist for Saturday am.

A long winded way of saying that this session was on tyres from earlier, in Geri's case we had done 4 laps on a new set, so continued to use them. The JHR cars lined up first in the assembly area and went out together. This paid dividends for Geri who set a 1:24.749 on lap 3 to place him second to Fagg, 0.12 faster. While other cars speeded up, no one was getting close to either of the front runners. Eight laps completed and we had the first of two red flags in the session, Dhyllan had beached at Redgate, back to green and just one flying lap later, Fittipaldi beached at Macleans and brought the second stoppage With the chance for tyres and engines to cool, times started coming down, Fagg improved his pole time while Wooder, Middleton and Brown demoted Geri to 5th. On his penultimate lap, Geri started a distance behind Seb Priaulx, both went green in the first sector, green in the second sector too. With the advantage of the tow from his team mate Geri was 1/4 second up on his best lap and looking good for pole, but he caught Seb going into the chicane, Seb on his own best lap had no need to move over and the time gained earlier in the lap was lost. But at least we know the speed is there, and we have another 3.5 hours tomorrow to look for more.

See the full timing from TSL here.

A full 3.5 hours was allocated for the Ginetta Juniors but the weather was expected to change after an hour or so with rain being forecast. Geri wasn't showing well at first taking a while to start lapping cleanly, and nowhere near as fast as yesterday. When the first of very many red flags came out, he was languishing back in 15th place.

From the restart he seemed more on the case, and rocketed to 2nd place with a lap in the 1:24.5s, where he should have been yesterday. Not only that, Geri went purple in the long sector two, from Craners to the speed trap on the back straight, a time that would not be beaten all day. By the next red flag, Geri had fallen back to 7th place and took a longer stay in pit lane while the team made some changes. During this period the rain started and the leaderboard would not change during the final couple of hours.

With Geri not being on track late enough during the dry running, the chance to improve again was lost. Most teams packed away during the rain, for what seemed like an hour or so, barely four cars were circulating, Geri was putting in the wet laps, at first on full stiff dry settings, before changing to softer wet settings, and then finally onto newer tyres for better rain grip. As the track got wetter, so more people were falling off and more red flags were being waved. In one late session Geri came in and parked up, not wanting to rejoin with the pack as he described them going "17 abreast" into Redgate, one falling off to the right down Craners while another fell off left into the gravel. Even the normally reliable Middleton had run on at the chicane.

With one session left, Geri set about putting in some quick laps, while 1:33s doesn't sound quick, only Brown (in the 1:32s) and Fagg (just) were going any quicker, with rain falling all evening and even snow forecast for the morning, we approach qualifying in confident frame of mind.

See the full timing from TSL here.

Qualifying on the Saturday morning was the first session on track, the track had been wet all night, there had been very light snow at Donington, although it had not settled. The cars lined up on the Melbourne loop as usual, and then made their way to the pitlane ready to start the session at 9:30 sharp, arriving some 5 minutes early. Geri recognised straight away that something wasn't right, he could barely spin the wheels up on pulling away on the loop, he had felt this before, last round of last season when the plugs had fouled at the Brands GP round. Rather than line up in the pitlane, Geri drove straight to where the JHR team were standing, outside the garages (occupied by the BTCC teams). A couple of quick checks, by revving the engine, later; Rob Monger was sent back to the paddock to pick up a set of plugs while a plug spanner was borrowed from one of the BTCC garages. Plugs were brought back (big thanks to Rob) and swapped over with Geri being sent barely 30 seconds after the last car left the pit lane.

The downside of course, was that he was alone rather than with his team mates. Geri put in an exploratory lap, then 4 more on his own which got him into the top ten. At this point he backed right out until his team caught up and tagged on behind them. The effect was instant, next lap Geri went P2! A slower lap was followed by another quickish lap, but now with Geri's best final sector of the session, and highest speed across the start line speed trap - and he made it round with just 3 seconds to spare before the flag dropped. This had to be THE lap.

All pictures on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography

Getting a good tow, Geri went green again in the first sector but as he flew down Craner Curves, ahead Dyllhan got into difficulties and spun at Old Hairpin ending up across the middle of the track. Geri had to back out and the lap was ruined - disappointingly we finished 10th in session so would be starting a lot further back than we had hoped - Thursday and Friday running had left us confident of a least the front two rows.

Race 1:
So starting on the grid in 10th place, with the grid order in front reading Brown, Middleton, Wooder, Harper, Priaulx, Tregurtha, Bird, Hornby and Gamble, with Geri on the outside of row 5. Geri looked to have the better of both Gamble and Bird off the line, and drew level with Hornby, but being on the outside at Redgate, Bird found a way back through on the inside, so only 1 place gained so far.

As the drivers went through Old Hairpin, they were unaware of what was happening at the back, with Perez and Collard involved. Perez was able to get back on the track although massively behind while Collard was stranded in the gravel trap. Geri was pressuring Bird on the run to Coppice and forced him just wide enoughat the second apex to dip inside and move up into 8th place. As they reached the start line at the end of the first lap, the Safety Car boards were out and the Safety Car waiting at the end of the straight to pick up the leaders. As the drivers rounded Old Hairpin, Collard's car was already being dragged out of the way but the Safety Car went round for another lap before racing could commence at the start of lap 4. The delay had allowed Perez to catch up with the pack although he would later be penalised for setting the fastest lap of the race under safety car conditions!

The main reason this happened was the change in weather, at the start of the second safety car lap, it started to rain, then it started to hail and any chance of a dry race was long gone. The track was becoming very slippery, the first lap back at speed would be interesting.

Geri had kept up well with Hornby but not so well that he could pass down the straight. Hornby took a wide entrance to Redgate, Geri tried to cut back inside but not quickly enough. Geri was holding a much tighter line all round the track but was unable to make an impression, and a big oversteer moment at Coppice allowed Hornby some respite, and Gamble back through. Geri got the better run out of the chicane and was pushing Gamble all the way up to Redgate and then round Hollywood. A good exit from Coppice and a wide line down the outside of the straight dummied Gamble, Geri then darting right and tucking his nose up the inside to retake 8th place. Five laps in and Geri was 1.3 behind 7th placed Hornby.

A lap later, that gap was down to 5/100ths! Geri had come round Macleans to find 4 cars squabbling over the same piece of track and was soon right on the back of the pack. Hornby had temporarily got passed Priaulx, but Seb came out of the chicane better and repassed him, Geri following through right on his bumper. AT Regate Roberts went roght round the outside from way back and slotted in between Seb and Geri - so still back to 8th. The train of cars went through Old Hairpin, Geri taking a whack from behind from Gamble, but maintaining his composure. Roberts and Priaulx came together exiting Macleans, an incident that would damage one of Cameron's wheels and force a pitstop. Geri didn't need a second invitation as he passed both his team mates and moved up to 6th and was right on the tail of Wooder and Tregurtha. but with Gamble a little over a tenth behind with two laps to go.

Geri went a little wide at Redgate unable to stop the car enough, another whack from behind from Gamble was enough to unsettle the car and make a gap to go through, Priaulx followed Gamble on the way down Craners. Back to 8th again. Geri was chasing Seb hard, but as they came down to the chicane, Hornby launched down the outside, went to turn in and realised there was no hope so cut straight across the chicane in a massive short cut coming out in front of Geri - really he should have given the place back. So down to 9th with a lap to go, and just 2 laps after being 6th and in the battle for 4th! And for the final lap, Geri had Bird climbing all over him. Another big oversteer at Coppice, 9th became 10th. Back where we started and not the result we were looking for, even though after 3 races we already have as many top ten results as in the whole of last year (three).

Race 2:
Once again, Geri would start from 10th on the grid, only for this race the track was fully dried out and any more rain looked unlikely. Ahead, race 1 winner Brown was on pole from Middleton, Harper, Wooder, Tregurtha, Gamble, Priaulx, Hornby and Bird. Two team mates directly on the row in front!

Another good start from Geri saw him leave Bird on the line and move over to the inside to cover him off, tucking in behind Priaulx. As Hornby moved right to cover, Geri went back left. Rounding Redgate, Gamble ran wide and all three JHR cars went through at the top of Craners, Geri already up to 8th and chasing Hornby hard, with Gamble, Fittipaldi, Bird and the two Elite cars close behind. Hornby ran wide out of Coppice, Geri tried to go inside but Priaulx was there, Geri was almost over on the grass trying to pass Seb as well, but couldn't make either move stick before the chicane. Geri lost a little ground defending Redgate, but was much quicker through Old Hairpin, where Priaulx ran wide, and closed back up on Hornby. Exiting Macleans, Geri stayed very tight, Priaulx was wide and for a moment the 3 JHR cars were 3 abreast, by Coppice Geri was past Hornby and closing on Priaulx - his two wide corners had allowed the pack in front to open up a gap. Right behind Geri, as he passed Hornby, Hornby was taken out by Gamble putting them both at the back of the group. Two laps in and Geri was 7th.

Not needing to defend in Redgate, Geri went purple in sector one and was all over Priaulx through Old Hairpin, going through on the inside at Macleans. The bunch of 4 cars in front had closed up again, and Geri was gaining fast. Purple again in sector 2. Any chance of setting fastest lap went as he closed right up on the lead cars into the chicane losing time he could have found there - Geri would finish lap 3 in 5th place, climbing all over 4th placed Wooder, and only 1.5 seconds off the lead, as he, Wooder and Priaulx all passed Tregurtha between the chicane and the start line.

Geri was putting Wooder under immense pressure, and Wooder ran wide at Old Hairpin keeping his foot in as he rejoined the track. Geri had the momentum, and ran round the outside at Schwantz to move into 4th place. Priaulx followed through at Macleans giving Wooder a bit of a nudge. There were now three cars in front of Geri all running together - Brown, Middleton and Harper.

Geri was just far enough ahead of Priaulx to not have to defend the chicane, three cars ahead squabbling was slowing them, and Geri was closing back up - the gap to the lead was 1.7. Geri was waving frantically at Priaulx to work with him so they could chase down the leaders. Brown went off at Old Hairpin - Geri was 3rd and closing in on Middleton and Harper, dragging Priaulx along with him. Five laps down, Geri crossed the line 1.2 behind the lead pair, but Priualx and Wooder were with half a second of Geri, Tregurtha another half a second back.

Priaulx attacked Geri into Redgate. Geri put a back wheel wide and had a bit of a wiggle, Priaulx, Wooder and Tregurtha came through demoting Geri to 6th, and Wooder had passed Priaulx in the manouevre to go 3rd. The cars were all jockeying for position, coming out of Coppice, Priualx was wide, Tregurtha went through with Gero following on his bumper. Tregurtha was busy defending from Geri who ran into the back of him under braking, Priaulx tried to down the outisde but launched across the sausage kerb landing directly in front of Geri, who kept his foot hard in and ran into the back of Priaulx as he was going across the track towards the grass. Bye bye bonnet pins - we would find after the race that one of the hinges had also been pulled out of the bonnet so just one hinge and the strap holding the bonnet on the car now. And back to 5th as he crossed the line, now with Roberts close behind, he had caught up from the rear of the grid.

The aero of Geri's car was being affected by the loose bonnet, it was bouncing as Geri ran across the kerbs at the chicane, and lifting at speed all round the circuit. Over the final three laps the leaders would pull a second a lap on Geri who was busy holding onto 5th place from , whi did get alongside once going into Redgate. Geri would go on to keep the place by just 3/10ths posting his best Ginetta finish to date, although disappointed not to be on the podium. After the race, the draw was made for the reverse grid for race 3, which ended up placing Roberts on pole with Geri alongside on the front row!

Race 3:

Geri preparing for his front row start

Race 3, the first of 5 triple header race 3s for the Ginetta Junior drivers this year. With reverse point set at 6, the grid was Roberts, Geri, Tregurtha, Wooder, Harper, Middleton then Bird, Priaulx, Brown and Fittipaldi. Short of Roberts messing up the start, we couldn’t see how Geri would exit Redgate higher than third.

Geri got the better start and started to edge forwards but only reached a bonnet length ahead before Roberts started coming back, the two reached Redgate side by side forcing Geri to take a wide line round which allowed Tregurtha to come through on the inside.

With a compromised line, Geri was easy prey for Harper through Hollywood, although the top 4 were already pulling clear of Wooder and Co by Old Hairpin. At the back there was an incident, and in avoiding a spinning car, Dhyllan beached in the gravel outside Old Hairpin – so just like race 1, a first lap safety car would be brought out. Not great news for Geri as it would allow Wooder to catch back up with Geri and put him under further pressure.

Coming out of the chicane, Roberts ran wide across the grass, but with the safety car waiting for the drivers at the pitlane exit, he couldn’t lose any places. Two full laps under the safety cars later and the race was back on. Tregurtha got inside Roberts at Redgate and Harper followed him through running side by side down the hill. Wooder was attacking Geri, but Geri held on to his 4th place down Craners. Tregurtha was making a break at the front as a 14 car group headed by Harper went round Macleans, Roberts ran wide on the exit but remained in front of Geri. Behind Wooder was having to defend from Brown so reopening the earlier gap between 4th and 5th.

Wooder was hung out on the right coming into the chicane, Brown and Middleton went through but Middleton lost places running down the pit straight on the grass. All this was helping Geri who crossed the line in 4th, 1.4 off the lead, 2/10ths behind Roberts and 2 seconds ahead of 5th placed Brown. Roberts ran slightly wide at Macleans allowing Geri to move inside and then outbrake Roberts into Coppice – Geri was up to the 3rd, but back to 1.5 off the lead with Roberts a tenth behind him, then Brown a second further back.

Lap 6, Geri was closing in in the lead pair fast, positions up front swapped at Macleans where Harper dived inside to take the lead. Harper was defensive into the chicane, Geri closed right up, now 7/10ths off the lead, Roberts a couple of tenths behind but Brown ominously getting closer and closer in 5th place. Tregurtha took a wide sweep into Redgate and cut back inside Harper at Hollywood, all the while Geri was getting closer and closer. Harper got alongside Tregurtha on the run up to Coppice, Geri half way through his boot trying to follow, but Harper braked too soon. Tregurtha tried to brave it round the outside, but Geri was pushing Harper through and into the lead before following through into second place.

Across the line there was nothing in it, less than ¼ second covered the top 3, Brown, Wooder and Roberts were all within 0.65 of the lead! Geri was bumping Harper all the way to Redgate, they stayed tight and Brown took the wide line in simply driving round the outside of Geri, Tregurtha pushing him all the way, and then Wooder appearing from nowhere to slice diagonally between Geri and Tregurtha and somehow getting round Old Hairpin. From 2nd back to 5th. Tregurtha and Wooder ran side by side through Schwantz and up to Macleans, Geri tucked in tight behind Tregurtha and both cars got through before Coppice – back to 4th.

Geri was confident he could make up the gap again, Tregurtha had broken a couple of seconds clear, but as Geri was turning into Old Hairpin, Wooder dived inside and back through. Geri gave chase, he could catch Wooder (again) but a wide line at Macleans allowed Roberts to dip inside and put Geri on the grass as he pushed through, Bird following closely behind. Now we were 7th – and worse was to come. Middleton came flying through at the chicane, bonnet askew and Priaulx followed through the gap before Geri could react – in the space of 2 laps he had gone from second to 9th such is the competitive nature of this championship.

After the race Geri was gutted, he thought he was going to win it, and a podium was going to be a minimum. The results move Geri up one place in the championship to 7th, if we could stop losing places late in the race we would be 3rd or 4th! Something to work on before the next round in three week time at Thruxton

See the full timing from TSL here.

Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.

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