Anglesey 10/11 May 2014 - Ford Fiesta Junior
Anglesey - picturesque but miles away from anywhere and the land of the challenging weather conditions! To be fair, weather was pretty challenging this weekend wherever you were in the UK.
Photo courtesy Rachel Bourne
We did manage a dry pair of test sessions in advance of race day, Geri looked to be carrying decent speed, but with no official timing, once again it was difficult to measure where we stood, and as this was the Fiesta Junior's first visit to Anglesey, there were no previous times to compare with.
250 miles from home to the circuit, and about 20 less to our hotel for the weekend, the Gwesty Victoria Hotel by Menai Bridge. So we did well to arrive shortly after 9pm, and did better to find that our room was more like a suite with settees, and bedding for 5 - Geri bagged the double bed over the bathroom, accessible only by a step ladder.
Saturday morning, and the expected rain had fallen overnight, but for all that, the weather seemed to be brightening. By the time the juniors went out for morning practice shortly before 11am, the track was dry and dry tyres were the order of the morning. Testing had shown the circuit to be very abrasive, and very hard especially on the front left tyre. Geri soon settled in and posted 1:22.6 on lap 5, enough for second place but 0.8 adrift of Rob Cox - a familiar story by now. Geri came in for some suspension setting changes but the tyres had given too much for an improved time, although the car felt better - the settings could be saved for another session.
By afternoon qualifying, commendably running a good 45 minutes ahead of schedule at 15:20, showers had been coming and going all day. But the rain had abated and surely the Mazdas out on track would clear a dry line. So off to the assembly area we went - on dry tyres. As did all the other drivers - Jessica was missing, her bad luck continuing, her engine leaking water and needing another replacement. A trip back home beckoned for her family to pick up another engine which Daniels Motorsport would then change over in time for Sunday's races. Daniels were also looking after Geri once again - work had been done to alleviate a driveshaft knock.
With the weather being so changeable, and looking like it could rain again, we primed Geri to go for one banzai lap straight from the start - but delays between getting the Mazdas off the track and the Fiestas back out meant that just as the cars were released, the rain started. Aaron Thompson was decisive, and drove straight into the pitlane from the assembly area so his father could put his car on wets. Geri allowed Thomas Grundy to drive past and then watched him slither round the circuit - Geri came straight back into the pits after one slow lap and the team swapped him onto wets. Aaron was on the case, by lap 4 he had set a 1:24.190 time which looked unassailable - Geri finally got within a tenth of that and looked to have secured a front row starting place, but Rob Cox did the business late on in the session, his final three laps all would have taken pole.
Samuel Watkins was 4th on the grid, just 0.3 behind Geri, an excellent showing - and almost a second ahead of Thomas Grundy in 5th. Michael Higgs had delayed his pit stop trying first to set a time on dries, then couldn't get a clear lap in before the session ended so was disappointingly down in 6th place with Nathan Edwards in 7th.
Sunday morning and again the weather was playing with the drivers. There had been rain earlier, but once again it had stopped, and with a healthy wind blowing, the track would dry out. Wouldn't it? No one wanted to show their hand, so the drivers were tardy in arriving in the assembly area. When they did, Aaron, Nathan and Jessica were on wets, Michael, Sam and Thomas were on dry fronts and wet rears, Geri and Rob had taken the biggest gamble on dry tyres all round - this was either going to be a glorious race win or a shambolic disaster. With a couple of minutes still remaining, Aaron's father was feeling he had ruined Aaron's day with a wrong tyre choice - but as the cars left the assembly area, so it started to rain again.
On a slippery track Aaron made a blistering start and was many cars lengths clear even before the first corner. Geri got away better than Rob in front of him, but not enough to get inside him - as he backed off so Michael came flying through from 6th on the grid into 3rd place through Turn 1, the order already Aaron, Rob, Michael, Geri, Thomas, Nathan, Sam and Jessica. Going down towards the Banking, Thomas came down outside Geri and attempted to go round the outside of him - Geri slid a little in the Banking, knocking gently into Thomas helping back on line. Michael was sliding round the Banking but still got better drive than Rob on the run to Church and moved up into second. Rob was very sideways through Church allowing Aaron and Michael to pull further away - Geri tried to keep up on the run up to Rocket, but Thomas had much more grip and outbraked Geri going round the outside in plenty of time to turn into Rocket - Geri was already down to 5th and it was plain that dry tyres were not going to work.
At the end of the first lap Aaron was already almost 7 seconds clear of Michael, in turn over a second ahead of Rob, with Thomas and Geri another second each farther behind. Nathan was in 7th already starting what would prove an excellent, confident drive, just 0.4 behind Geri while the gaps back to Sam and Jessica were both over 10 seconds already. Aaron was really pushing at the front, making the most of the grip of his wet tyres, and would set the fastest lap of the race at 1:25.4. Michael was now more than 10 seconds behind, surely Aaron would pick up not only his first points of the season, but also the first win (and podium) of his career. Three laps in, the gap from Aaron to Michael was 13 seconds, Rob was falling back from Michael while Thomas was closing in on him. Nathan was following Geri, but Geri was surely holding him up.
2 laps later, another 4 seconds on the gap as Aaron carried on unabated - no letting off for him this early in the race. Rob had kept himself 3 seconds ahead of 4th placed Thomas while Nathan was still within half a second of Geri. Jessica had pitted on the first lap and rejoined a couple of laps down, and Sam had a very near miss at the Corkscrew just lightly touching the wall after a spin - he came into the pits to check the damage before rejoining.
Aaron carried on 2 seconds a lap faster than Michael as the gap grew to over 20 seconds - at the back Nathan finally got fed up following Geri and neatly overtook down the inside into Rocket. By lap 11 Aaron led by 27 seconds, but Sam was now the fastest car on the track as Aaron had backed off - alas Sam's spin and visit to the pits meant he was 3 laps down on the road no matter his position on the track. Michael was almost 10 seconds ahead of Rob who in turn was much the same ahead of Thomas. All eyes were now on Nathan, 4 seconds behind Thomas but visibly faster and closing.
Nathan was taking massive chunks out of Thomas, 1.2 seconds on the final lap, he just needed one more lap to have taken 4th place - finishing just 4/10ths shy. Aaron had taken the flag half a minute before Michael arrived, Rob taking the last podium place 15 seconds behind Michael. Thomas and Nathan were 7 seconds back, with Geri another 3 seconds back and struggling to run at Nathan's pace. Sam finished 3 laps behind Aaron for 7th, Jessica was unlucky enough to lose one more lap and not be classified as a result.
Coming back into the paddock we had expected Geri might have been disappointed with the tyre choice put upon him - with wets surely a top 2 finish would have been his. But he came in and said "I know the position was bad, but I had SO MUCH FUN out there" - even the commentator had mistaken him playfully throwing the Fiesta through the Corkscrew for commitment.
We drop two scores at the end of the season, hopefully this 6th place will be one of them and the damage to Geri's championship effort minimised.
Race 2 was set as the last race on Sunday, the slot no-one wanted due to most people's long journey back home. Despite the Juniors needing to attend school on the Monday morning, the adults apparently felt them going to work was more important. The good news was that again the schedule was running ahead and this race started 35 minutes earlier than planned.
It might have been the end of the day, but the weather was still feeling playful. Both adult Fiesta races earlier that afternoon had lulled the drivers into running on dry tyres before raining and causing carnage in both events. And this race was looking no different. Geri's cars was still on dry tyres from the morning race, as we were being called, Daniels Motorsport put the Fiesta onto wet tyres. The car had barely been released from the jack when we asked for dry tyres on the front - after the mistakes of the morning, we felt a conservative approach might be best. We drove down to the assembly area - the king of the forecasters, Thompson was on dry tyres all round, as was Michael. Geri and Rob were on dry front, wet rear while the others were on wets. Cue more frantic activity as first Rob put dries on the rear, then Thomas went for dries on the front. With time running out, and 3 main contenders on dries all round, we had to cover them off. Adam from Daniels Motorsport ran back to the paddock to bring back two more wheels, the jacks went back down just as the drivers were sent out onto the track.
The grid lined up in race 1 finishing order, so Aaron, Michael, Rob, Thomas, Nathan, Geri, Sam, Jessica. The grid formation at Anglesey seems to be the wrong way round with pole on the inside for the for corner - it works at Snetterton, but the run to the corner is a lot shorter here. And just as Aaron blasted away from P2 in the first race, so Michael did the same from P2 in this race. The front 5 cars broke away even into Turn 1 where the order was Michael, Aaron, Thomas, Rob and Geri. Thomas and Rob were squabbling over position, Rob went down the left towards the Banking, Thomas with the inside line got back level. The cars were all jockeying for position, Rob got boxed in behind Aaron and Thomas, and while Thomas overtook Aaron into Chuch, so Geri went past Rob. Geri was on the inside and banged door mirrors with Aaron as he moved across towards the apex, but Geri got the better exit and was able to drive straight past Aaron before reaching the bottom of the hill. At the end of lap 1 it was Michael, Thomas, Geri, Aaron, Rob with Michael 1.5 seconds ahead of Thomas and 3.5 seconds ahead of 5th placed Rob.
Just before the lap 2 incident, as Geri overtakes Thomas - photo courtesy Rachel Bourne
Lap 2, Geri got a strong run up the hill and outbraked Thomas into Rocket, turning in nice and tight - Geri was up into second although Michael was 2.5 seconds in front of him. All the action happened behind Geri - Rob had been much faster up the hill than Aaron, but at the top of the hill and going a lot quicker, he got onto the slippery part of the track and smacked head on into Thomas' door. Aaron took avoiding action going outside Thomas and across the grass cutting the corner completely. At the end of the lap, Michael was 2.5 seconds ahead of Geri who was almost 3 seconds ahead of Aaron. Thomas limped round the second part of Rocket before pulling onto the grass to retire - Rob was not so lucky, his car was stricken on the track leaving no alternative but for the safety car to be sent out. As Michael arrived at the scene on lap 3 he assumed the role of Safety Car slowing the remaining drivers until they were picked up by the real Safety Car down at the Banking on lap 4.
Two breakdown vehicles were dispatched and they did a great job of recovering Rob and Thomas' cars, returning them to Parc Ferme - the Safety Car lights went off coming into Peel on lap 5. Michael controlled the pack superbly hitting the accelerator as he entered the Corkscrew - and he was away. Geri was in hot pursuit but Aaron was right on his tail coming out of the Banking and all the way up the hill. The dive down the inside was inevitable, Geri saw it coming and stayed well right, but braked early enough to cut back inside and behind Aaron who held second place for about 30 metres!. With a slowed run through Rocket, Aaron slipped back from Geri allowing the latter to concentrate on chasing his first ever victory.
Michael posted the fastest lap of the race on lap 7, a 1:21.566 giving him a 1.2 second lead over Geri who had in turn stretched out a 1.5 second lead over Aaron. Geri wasn't giving up this chance - mindful of his chase back at Snetterton, Geri set about reducing the gap. His next two laps were the 2nd and 3rd fastest of the race, 1.21.58 and 1.21.6, the gap on lap 9 down to 0.85. On lap 10 the gap was just 0.3, a slower 1.22.2 for Geri still being half a second quicker than Michael could manage as their tyres were now overheating. Geri was 2 seconds clear of Aaron now so didn't have to worry about behind - he could just admire Michael's rear bumper. Geri was 5/100ths quicker on lap 11, getting alongside Michael at Rocket - now he was right on Michael's tail through the Corkscrew and down to the finish line.
Sequence showing Geri overtaking Michael - photos courtesy Rachel Bourne
Lap 12 - Geri was gaining through Church and up the hill, this time Geri stayed to the right of the track and cut in very tight, got the traction he needed and passed Michael before the 180 degree bend. This was the first time Geri had led a race, could he handle the pressure - he crossed the line 0.4 seconds ahead of Michael, neither of them saw the Last Lap board being shown. One more lap, Michael piled on the pressure looking for a gap one side, then the other. Geri covered the overtaking places, once he reached the Corkscrew he knew he had won the race - and took the flag by 0.43 seconds to record his first win.
Aaron had taken the opportunity to close up on the leaders once they had started to slow, and took his second podium of the day 1.5 seconds behind Michael. Almost forgotten in the excitement at the front was the battle at the back. Nathan had got the better of Jessica at the start, and by lap 6 was 3.5 seconds ahead of her. The gap was up to 4.5 seconds on lap 9, but then the Jessica come back started - 1.2 seconds quicker on lap 10, and 2.7 seconds quicker on lap 11, this brought the gap down to 3/10ths - while Nathan was slightly quicker on lap 12, on the final lap Jessica made the pass and took 4th place, her highest finish to date. Samuel had been running in a lonely fourth, unable to stay in touch with the leaders and well clear of Nathan and Jessica, but a puncture late in the race saw him record a DNF from a certain 4th place.
Michael has extended his lead over Geri 170-165 with Nathan now up to third on 146 - but when you apply the 2 dropped scores to the first six rounds, the order is Rob 123, Michael 115, Geri 114 with 10 more races to go.
Watch the whole of Race 2 here
Watch the action from the first 3 laps up to the Safety Car comning out in Race 2 from the rear camera here
Watch the first lap from the restart as Aaron tries to pass Geri here
Watch the final laps as Geri passes Michael and then holds off the challenge to the finish line here
Please see the official race report here.
Check out the Fiesta Junior points standings.
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