Rockingham 28/29 April 2018 - Ginetta GT5 Challenge
After Oulton Park we were able to get in a c0uple of test days - and in very warm weather as we ventured to Thruxton and then Rockingham. We were pleased with our pace, we should be thereabouts at Thruxton, and as best as we could tell on a crowded Track Day, in a good place at Rockingham too.
Race weekend came and so did the previous race weekend weather - none of this high twenty degrees that we tested in last week, back to cold, wet, miserable. Despite this, we were upbeat fairly early on during the Friday test sessions. We arrived at a wet set up that seemed good, and despite the lack of TSL Timing for the day (seriously?) the team were keeping an eye on Geri and those we considered likely to be the main competition, and Geri was fastest. We could sleep on Friday night feeling confident about Saturday qualifying, despite how far off the pace we were in the wet at Oulton Park.
All pictures on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography
As forecast, Saturday morning was cold and wet again, possibly not raining as hard as on Friday, but conditions appeared to be pretty similar. We had changed nothing on the car except for fitting a brand new set of wet tyres - the plan had to be bed them in for two or three laps on the Friday, but as we went out near the end of the session, there was a red flag during Geri's outlap, and the session was closed before we had the chance to try again. Even so, this should not have been the end of the world.
The real surprise after Friday was taking 5 or 6 laps to even get into the 1:45s, by now other drivers were in the 44s and we were at a loss to understand why Geri wasn't amongst them. On the final lap, McKenna broke into the 43s and while Geri posted his best lap at the end of the session, we were 1.6s off pole and back in 7th place. Geri came in complaining of no grip, no traction and a car that just didn't do what it was doing yesterday.
More worrying was that McKenna, Kellett and Stoney occupied the front three spots, with O'Brien, Toth-Jones and Bird also in front of Geri. We need to pull points back from Stoney and Kellett, not fall further behind.
The team went right through the car but it appeared to be set up correctly. We could always make up places during the race - couldn't we? Geri felt he could make up places from the start if he got away well - the grid is so wide at Rockingham the rows are staggered so you have a clear run in between the cars on the row ahead if you get it right.
With rain still falling as the race started, the start was OK but on the row ahead Toth-Jones had launched forwards, and while Geri caught up with Bird, Bird had time to move over as they entered turn 1. On the plus side, they both streaked past Stoney and O'Brien. Success was short-lived, Geri got boxed in behind Bird, O'Brien and Quinn stayed high and overtook going into Deane. Geri remained in 7th, the gap between Quinn and himself first opening up, then closing again. Geri was already finding Quinn was not easy to overtake - something that would pay dividends later in the weekend. By the end of the first lap, Quinn was .6 short of 5th place, while Geri was 0.25 behind Quinn - the gap out front was already opening up with Geri nearly four seconds behind Kellett.
Lap 2, Stoney went high and tried to come round the outside at Deane, but Geri held him off and continued chasing Quinn. Geri was faster through PifPaf and much faster at Gracelands, but as he went to go round Quinn at the exit of Gracelands, so Quinn just got far enough right to cover the gap and Geri ran into the back of him. Both bonnet pins broke and Geri would have to do the rest of the race with the bonnet flapping, doing nothing for aero or visibility.
The bonnet was costing 5kph along the banking, sure enough Stoney dived inside at Deane on lap 3, Geri defenceless and falling back from Quinn. Geri wasn't giving up without a fight and got his bonnet inside Stoney at Chapman, but not far enough to make it stick. Geri could stay with Stoney through the in field to Tarzan, but out of Tarzan and then onto the banking, he fell back dramatically as aero losses took their toll.
Same again at Deane on lap 4, at the very last Digby dived inside Geri running wide as he did so, Geri trying the cutback to keep the place. But the wider line and better traction saw Digby simply rocket out of Deane and up to Yentwood - and gone. Next lap, a similar story, Geri was half way into Deane as Miracco came down inside but this time it was closer. Geri fought back and was alongside on the inside at Yentwood, they ran up to Chapman trading paint side by side, but with the bonnet lifting high coming towards PifPaf, Geri couldn't judge the braking point and Miracco came through on the inside. Yet another place lost - and still only lap 5.
Geri was giving chase, he wasn't letting Miracco get away and could hold station with him over a lap, Miracco having Quinn just in front of him. Geri was also aided by the next car behind, Grady, being 3 seconds back so Geri didn't have to worry about more cars from behind for a couple of laps. Miracco was getting closer to Quinn, they touched at Chapman giving Geri a chance to close right up. Coming out of Tarzan Geri got on the inside for the chicane and looked like he would get the place back while Miracco was all over Quinn's bumper - but they still entered the chicane in the same order as the past couple of laps. This time, Miracco was compromised and Geri got a better exit leaving him crossing the line 8/100ths before Miracco. Geri held off his pursuer in the run to Deane, but Miracco was going left, right, anywhere looking for a gap and from being outside going into Yentwood, he cut back inside to take the line going into Chapman, and with it the place.
Geri finished the race in 10th place - a net loss of 3 places where we were hoping for a gain. Kellett finally triumphed after a close race with Toth-Jones, McKenna was third some 9 seconds back while O'Brien took 4th from Stoney, Digby and Bird, the 4 of them separated by .6 - then Quinn, Miracco and Geri with an 8 second gap behind them. Clearly we would be hoping for better things on Sunday, the gap to Kellett is already getting uncomfortable.
Sunday at least brought drier weather, but with an air temperature around 6 degrees and a track temperature of 8 degrees, although it was dry enough for slicks, they would have trouble getting hot enough. But at least we could race on slicks for the first time this sesson, so all starters would have been on 4 brand new, unused tyres.
Starting from 10th meant being on an outside row - maybe a run around the outside would work? A much better start, Geri got away faster than Miracco on his left, past Quinn a row ahead, then straight between Bird and Digby, took a look at going round O'Brien before slotting in behind O'Brien and Stoney going into Deane. Digby tried to fight back up to Yentwood but Geri firmly closed the door - up to 6th place in the first three corners and now chasing down Kellett, Toth-Jones, McKenna, Stoney and O'Brien in front.
Geri was being chased closely by Digby and Bird, Bird gave him a good whack from behind at Tarzan sending Geri wide and allowing Bird to get alongside, but Geri had the inside line for the chicane and went through as Bird and Digby tried to go side by side following him, Bird losing out as he span out. Arenham was now taking up position in the group behind Geri, and it became apparent that Geri was being held up by Optimum Motorsport team mate O'Brien. This had a double effect, the leaders were pulling clear, even if Geri passed O'Brien, there would be a big gap to make up. And behind was getting interesting as the following pack closed up leaving Geri having to defend as much as tying to pass O'Brien.
By lap 6 Digby had fallen back (temporarily) and Geri was stuck in the middle of a three way battle, O'Brien in front, Arenham behind - but O'Brien was now nearly seven seconds behind 4th placed McKenna. Already 5th was the absolute best Geri could hope for. Geri got alongside O'Brien out of Tarzan, but on the outside, he then dived late inside into the chicane locking a front wheel, the team mates going into the chicane side by side and trading paint, but O'Brien still came out ahead. This allowed Arenham to get a better exit from the chicane, and although Geri was just ahead at the start line, Arenham had control of the inside and was able to take the place into Deane, despite going in at a shallow angle and almost collecting O'Brien.
There was a massive battle between O'Brien, Arenham and Geri which raged until the end of lap 8. Just after Geri lost out to Arenham, Deane was lost as an overtaking opportunity, Grady had run into the back of Miracco stranding the latter in the grass (mud) past Deane and bringing out the yellow flag which would remain until the end of the race. Going into the chicane, they came across Konczos who was recovering from an excursion, O'Brien got through cleanly, Arenham nearly hit him and swerved hard to avoid him allowing Geri to regain the place on the exit. 2 laps to go and back up to 6th.
Digby had now closed up but the new 4 car battle went swiftly back to three as Arenham did a full 360 degree spin leaving the banking at near on 120mph, finished pointing forwards on the grass and simply drove along to Deane before rejoining, just three places lost! This made little difference to Geri other than it was now Digby to defend from rather than Arenham.
Geri was trying to hunt down O'Brien, on the final lap O'Brien was too hot out of Tarzan and as the car started to slide, so Geri went for the outside, which would put him inside for the chicane - but O'Brien caught the slide, the car coming back into Geri's path and the corner of the bonnet and headlamp were lost. As was 6th place, being slowed momentarily was just enough for Digby to take advantage and the place.
Another win for Kellett, again from Toth-Jones and with Stoney third from McKenna did us no favours - both Kellett and Stoney pulling ever further ahead overall.
The final race took place in dry conditions again, still not exactly warm, in fact temperatures had barely chaneed since the morning. This being a three race event, the final race would have a partial reverse grid - Kellett drew ball 8 (from a choice of 8, 9 and 10) which left Geri sitting on the outside of the front row, alongside Quinn
and with Digby, O'Brien, McKenna, Stoney, Toth-Jones and Kellett behind.
This had to be a big chance to score points for Geri. He knew how difficult it was to pass Quinn round here and figured if he could get the right start, he might get a couple of clear laps in which to break away.
Geri got the start he wanted, he was already more than a car length clear of Quinn within 50 metres, and moved over in front. On the run down to Deane, Geri knew he would get hit, and sure enough Quinn ran into him as Geri @quot;stopped@quot; the car at Deane ensuring any hit he took would be in a straight line and not spin him round. He still had to defend from Quinn up to Yentwood, but after that Geri started to pull clear while Quinn kept everyone else behind him.
After 1 lap, Geri was 1.1 clear of Quinn with Toth-Jones third from Kellett. The latter pair swapped places on lap 2 but now Geri was 2 seconds clear, he had got the two laps and the gap he wanted.
Better was to come - Kellett didn't get past Quinn until approaching Gracelands on lap 5, at the end of the lap and half way point of the race, Geri had a lead of 4.8 seconds. Lap 6 and Kellett set a new fastest lap taking 6/10ths out of Geri's lead. A faster lap sttll on lap 7 saw another 7/10ths, but with 3 laps left Geri still led by 3.6 seconds. Kellett had taken the best out of his tyres, and although he was still gaining on Geri, it was clear that Geri was controlling the gap and conserving his tyres. With two laps to go the gap was 2.9 seconds, Geri upped the pace just a little posting his best lap of the race but still running probably half a second of what he could have. It was enough to leave Kellett with a 2.4 second gap and 1 lap remaining. Even if he could have caught up, he would still have to pass. Geri backed off a bit for the final lap taking his first win of the season by 1.5 seconds from Kellett.
Amazingly Quinn had held on to his podium position despite a 11 car train behind him where drivers were swapping positions amongst themselves but not the important one.
A bad weekend was at least a little salvaged with the win but Kellett's points haul with 2 wins and a second was massive. He now leads the championship after 5 races with 163 points, with Stoney 137 and Geri 104. 59 points is a big gap, but we have 12 races in which to come back and we did OK at Thruxton and Knockhill last year. A couple more good results and we would be right back in contention.
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Next time out is Thruxton on 19/20 May.