Thruxton 18-19 May 2019 - Ginetta GT5 Challenge
The second round of the 2019 Protyre Ginetta GT5 Challenge was held at Thruxton this weekend as a support race for the BTCC package. Geri Nicosia had recorded two wins and two second places in the past two visits, so was feeling confident of extending his championship lead. We even got a decent write up in the pre-event review.
We missed the official Thruxton test day, but to be fair only four GT5 drivers attended; whether this was because it was two days before the first round at Oulton Park and for some drivers possibly the day after an Oulton park test day is unknown. certainl for us, we thought we could risk the first round if we had a big issue testing2 days earlier elsewhere. We did manage to run on a track day at Thruxton 2 Fridays before the race weekend, this turned out to be a running-in session for a replacement engine, that from Oulton park proving to be down on compression on three of the cylinders. Even running old (as in last years and 2017) tyres, Geri was able to post competitive times on the rare clear lap so we approached the race weekend with optimism.
A thirty-one car entry started the Saturday qualifying - we had lost Connor Garlick to a mid-week testing incident - and Geri was straight out of the blocks, overtaking 8 cars before arriving at the chicane now at the front of the drivers. There had been overnight rain and although the track was dry, there were still damp patches around the chicane, Geri realised this when launching straight through ready to start a flying lap, with a bit of sideways action. Eager to prove his credentials, Geri posted two fast laps that left him heading the qualifying times, already in the 1:24.1s where pole last year was 1:24.0.
All photos on this page copurtesy of Jacob Ebrey Photography
We led the lineup for the first 6 laps, but then slowly a number of drivers managed to go faster still with the aid of a tow around the faster parts of the circuit, dropping Geri back to 7th place - he was unable to improve on his second lap time done in clean air. Consistency again showed, Geri's second fastest lap was enough to confirm a 5th place start for the second race. Though disappointed not to have taken pole, Geri said ďIím comfortable that we are fastest in clean air, and looking forwards to the racesĒ.
Race 1 - Saturday:
Race one on Saturday afternoon saw Geri lined up behind a different bunch of drivers to the norm. Katie Milner had posted a ridiculous 1:23.8 to ensure pole, and backed that up with a second lap to gat pole for Sunday's race too. Behind Milner were Gordie Mutch (closest to Geri in the championship), David Ellesley, Ruben del Sarte, Joshes Hislop and Malin, and then Geri with the other main championship protagonists Smalley and McKenna 8th and 10th.
Geri was able to launch one of his now trademark blistering starts going right between the Joshes on the row ahead, then outside Ellesley and Mutch (who had fallen behind del Sarte) round Allard. del Sarte gave the full hip and shoulders to Milner going into the complex, Geri was darting laft and right looking for a gap before going inside Milner at Noble. From 7th up to 2nd and now just del Sarte ahead. Geri closed right up exiting Church but was unable to take the lead before the chicane, so close that they touched exiting. It looked like Geri was going to dive inside as they started lap 2 but then went outside before cutting back inside at Allard to take the lead. With Geri's form at Thruxton, surely this was race over?
Geri led by 0.42 at the end of the second lap, with Milner, Malin and Mutch spread out behind by similar gaps. A big lockup coming into the chicane on lap 3 allowed del Sarte to close up to just 0.2 when it looked like Geri was going to break free. Malin was now third, 0.4 behind del Sarte but Milner had now fallen a second further back in fourth place under close attention from Mutch, McKenna and Smalley.
Geri was now having to fight for this race, on lap 4 del Sarte got his rear wheel ahead of Geri, just not quite enough to cut in front as they braked for the chicane, on lap 5 he was alongside on the outside before conceding entry to the chicane. This was allowing the pack at the front to bunch up, at the end of lap 4 less than 2 seconds covered Geri, del Sarte, Malin, Mutch, Milner, McKenna, Smalley and Hislop! A lap later there had been a shuffle, Smalley was now up to 4th foilowed by McKenna, Milner, Mutch, Hislop, but now Maxted, Ryder and Grady had joined in with less than as second separating 6th placed Milner from 11th placed Grady!
Lap 6, Geri still led from del Sarte, Malin and Smalley but they were separated by just 0.88s. Smalley got past Malin on lap 7, but then disaster on lap 8 as del Sarte got a great run and tow, this time making the move stick before the chicane. It got worse on lap 9 as del Sarte suddenly braked hard coming into Church, Geri having to do likewise and still almost running into del Sarte, as they came across a pair of backmarkers travelling a full 20mph slower through Church. The lost momentum was a killer as Geri was swarmed from behind falling back to 6th before regaining his composure and some places to end the lap 3rd, behind del Sarte and Malin with McKenna and Smalley in close attendance.
Geri finally repassed Malin at Cobb, but del Sarte was off down the road with over a second lead and 4 laps to go. And there was still McKenna, Smalley and Malin all within a second of Geri. A lap later, Geri had knocked 0.2 seconds off the gap, but it was still 0.9 with 3 laps remaining. Geri kept the pressure on, on lap 12 del Sarte ran fractionally wide exiting Church, just enough to kick up some dirt. But it was enough to slow his car just a fraction allowing Geri to close right up as they braked for the chicane. Two laps to go and a gap of 0.27.
Geri closed right up through Allards, del Sarte went defensive at the complex as Geri first went outside, back inside, then outside and finally cutting back inside del Sarte as they exitted Cobb, Geri retaking the lead. But only Woodham Hill where once again, del Sarte came past Geri on the outside taking full advantage of the tow. Del Sarte led into the chicane, but Geri kept it much tighter and cut inside as they left the chicane with Geri crossing the line just 0.06 ahead.
But.....there was still one more lap to go. And there would be more drama. Geri's line to Allard was compromised and del Sarte retook the lead before the complex. Once again Geri switched left, right, left and the right again to cut inside del Sarte in a carbon copy move of the previous lap. This time McKenna sat on Geri's rear bumper and followed him through. Geri managed to keep the lead this time and win the race from McKenna by 0.346 seconds, with del Sarte, Smalley and Malin all within 1 second of having won.
The win, Geri's third in five races at Thruxton, meant Geri's championship lead was now up to 23 points from second placed Smalley, whilst also moving 4 points further ahead of McKenna who picked up fastest lap and broke Geri's lap record. Mutch had picked up a puncture and after spinning at the chicane, came into the pits for a wheel change, but the shorter lap times at Thruxton meant he fell over a lap behind, and back to 22nd place, a non-point scoring position.
Race 2 - Sunday:
The Sunday live televised race, and for the first time in the three years Geri has run in this race, he wasn't on the front row. Indeed he would start 5th behind Milner, Mutch, Malin and Smalley. We expected another flying start from Geri, but this time if anything Malin in 3rd got an even better one and soon Mutch was falling backwards as first Malin, then Geri went by on the inside of the circuit. Coming into the complex, the cars were in 2x2 formation with Malin left of Milner at the front, Geri right behind and aiming between the lead pair, but with Smalley drawing back level on the far left. Geri got held up behind Milner and as he jinked left right left right again, it was Malin at the front from Milner, Smalley and Geri exitting the complex.
At Goodwood Smalley dived inside Milner, but Geri was carrying so much more speed, that as they exitted they were now three abreast before Geri moved into second place. Malin was still upfront but got his entry to Church wrong causing him to run wide onto the grass on the exit. This didn't seem to slow him at first, but Geri was closing as they approached the chicane. Across the line through Allard and then suddenly Malin's rear end let go as he spun out to the left, Geri getting by and into the lead. Smalley also managed to get through unhindered. Could Geri do it again?
The answer was no, or at least not yet. Geri was concerned to see Smalley simply drive by on the outside of Woodham Hill having plenty of time to pull in front before even thinking of braking. The Elite car was not short of waft. At the end of lap 2, it was Smalley, 0.345 ahead of Geri, with Mutch and McKenna in close company, then a 2 secind gap back to del Sarte and Milner.
Geri was much quicker through the first half of the circuit and climbing all over Smalley, he went for the pass inside towards Noble but was squeezed over and onto the grass, this allowed Mutch to come through and mcKenna to draw alongside. With the engine bouncing off the rev limiter in 6th, Geri dummied Mutch coming towards the chicane by moving far to the left before diving right and just finding a gap as they turned into the chicane, Geri now right back on Smalley's bumper.
By Campbell, Geri was all over Smalley, it was now a flat out race to the chicane. as Smalley pulled slowly clear, so Geri pulled back onto his bumper through Goodwood and Church, Geri plainly faster through the corners. But despite Geri bouncing off the rev limiter again in the tow, Smalley had enough waft to stay ahead, though Geri gave him a couple of taps going into the chicane.
The lap times at the front were slow, in the 1:26s, while the cars further back were all closing up. By lap 5, 4th placed McKenna was just 0.8 off Smalley, 7th placed Gus Bowers was only 1.8 off the lead. Again, on the first part of the lap, Geri was much quicker, this time trying to go outside Smalley at Goodwood before cutting inside to find the door firmly closed. Bouncing off the rev limiter again, Geri was right up on Smnalley who was now having to brake earlier to defend his position. Smalley would pull away out of the chicane but by Campbell Geri would be all over him again. Lap 6 and Geri was alongside Smalley approaching the chicane, but just couldn't get by.
Lap 8 Geri was so close through the complex he had to go outside Smalley at Seagrave but got boxed in and now Mutch moved up to second, maybe he could find a way past Smalley? And with momentum lost, McKenna came past Geri on the inside at Goodwood dropping Geri down to 4th. Geri came into the chicane fully alongside McKenna, but had to concede the entry. They crossed the line with Geri in 4th 1.4 seconds off leader Smalley, but now with del Sarte and Hislop (who had just set a new lap record) right behind. A lap later, and 0.6 covered the front four, Geri still in 4th place, and now a second clear of del Sarte.
Geri needed to get back in contention, a move round the outside coming into the complex saw Geri move past McKenna but lose the place almost immediately, but Geri made the move stick as they exitted Seagrave - back to third place and all over Mutch now. With four laps to go, Smalley was now 0.85 ahead of Mutch with Geri 0.6 behind, and 3/10ths ahead of McKenna. Within a lap the leaders had closed up again, McKenna in 4th was only 0.8 off the lead, behind there was a 2 second plus gap back to 5th placed Hislop.
Lap 11 and Geri was trying everything he could do to pass Mutch through the complex, alongside one way, then the other, but to no avail. Mutch had a bit of a wiggle going into Church, dipped wheels onto the grass exitting and was spat straight across Geri's front somehow maintaining forwards momentum, but Geri was now back in second place with 2 laps to find a way past Smalley. Geri was having a bit of a ragged lap, but as they approached the chicane, Smalley and Geri closed up behind a back marker, following him through the chicane and then cutting inside to start the final lap, the gap was 0.305.
Geri almost hit Smalley at Campbell such was the speed difference, but Geri lost momentum trying to pass. By Goodwood there was the preverbial fag paper between the leaders before Smalley opened out the smallest of gaps. Clsoing in slowly with the tow, once again Geri was twarted by the rev limiter and he followed Smalley through the chicane and across the line 0.222 behind. McKenna had passed Mutch on the final lap to take another podium.
Geri's lead over Smalley has dropped back to 18 points, McKenna is 19 points further back, with Mutch and Grady another 11 and 12 behind McKenna. We move on to Silverstone next in three weeks time.
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After the race Geri said ďitís been a great weekend, I really wanted the double win this year, but Iíve taken a good haul of points and extended my championship lead, so canít complain at thatĒ.
See the full timing and results for the weekend here.
See the full standings here.