Thruxton 7/8 May 2016 - Ginetta Junior
Thruxton differs from the other rounds, rather than the test day being part of the BTCC weekend, it was actually held 5 weeks before race weekend on April 7th. We had already tested at thruxton back in March and felt that we were in a good place, but this day would be the chance to see where everyone else was. Or would it - with rain falling for much of the day and the track never being completely dry, all we could gain was an idea for wet set-ups.
Combined Session Times
The first session was wet, times were 5 or 6 seconds adrift of last year's dry times. We were diappointed that Geri was well down the order in 11th place in this session, and half a second adrift of Cameron, the quickest of the JHR drivers, and even he was back in 6th place. The second session later in the faternon was one of constant change. The rain was on and off during the session, it had been dry for a while but just started as the drivers went out, a good lap would need to be the first one out there. Geri got baulked in traffic and was unable to do anything before the track got more slippery.
After a few laps the JHR cars came in for a change to wet suspension settings, and with typically bad luck on timing, the rain stopped. The track started to dry out in places although it was wickedly slippery out the back of the circuit - the fastest bit. Times started to come down, and Geri was on the move, at one point posting 3rd fastest time behind Middleton and Wooder. Geri had been left out on track while his sectors were green rather than bring him in to swap to dry settings, by the trime he could go no faster, the rain was about to start again, before coming down heavily at which point everyone gave up on running.
Geri finished the day in 7th place, but we don't know what the set up of the cars that went faster than Geri was, so cannot read too much into it.
Unlike all the test days at Thruxton, Saturday would prove to be hot and sunny, the temperatures would have an effect on the engines and this the lap times. In cool weather back in March, Geri had done a 1:30.4 lap, fully 1.5 seconds under the 2015 pole lap.
All pictures on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography
The JHR cars were lined up early in assembly and went out on track first, Geri was straight on it posting fastest lap on his first lap, but a slow looking 1:32.665. A slower second lap was followed by a better third lap, now 1:32.231 which had Geri sat in 4th place. Geri backed out for a couple of laps to try and get temperatures down, but later attempts at a quick lap could not improve on his lap 3 time, and he finished the session in 6th place, 1/8 second behind 2nd place, Harry King having set fastest lap by 2/10ths.
If anything temperatures were even higher by afternoon qualifying. Geri knew the importance of getting in early and went straight out to set the fastest lap. He hung back from Priaulx on the outlap in order to get a good tow, but Geri caught up with Seb on the approach to the chicane, backed out so he could have another go the following lap not knowing he had gone purple on both the first two sectors. If he hadn’t backed out he would have been on pole by 0.3 at least. Second lap was slightly quicker with a last sector quick enough to prove what could have been with a clear run.
A number of other drivers were displaying less intelligence, some of them almost stopping on the back of the circuit waiting to catch a tow, seemingly oblivious of the near 100mph speed differentials. As the clock ticked down with just one lap remaining, about a dozen of them congregated before the chicane and plainly screwed each other up completely. Thankfully as Geri could not improve on his second attempt and had fallen to 8th, although just 0.22 of pole debutant Seb Perez.
Unusually for the BTCC support weekends, both Ginetta Junior races were scheduled for Sunday. There had been unexpected overnight rain, indeed it was still raining at 8am but the track was bone dry long before the 11:25am start time for race 1.
Geri was lined up in 8th on the grid, so on the outside for the run to the first corner. Ahead were Perez, Middleton, Tregurtha, Hornby, Roberts, Priaulx and Gamble with Brown and Wooder immediately behind. All 5 JHR Developments cars in the first 8, but it should have been in the first 6.
Geri made a decent enough start but was made to work for position by Gamble who had started alongside him. Wooder had attempted to run right round the outside and for a while was in front but by Seagrave, Geri was firmly in 7th and right behind Priaulx. Up front Middleton had made the better start while after Seagrave, Perez came back off a kerb and ran into Hornby spinning him off the track, moving Geri up to 6th, but with Wooder and Brown right on his tail.
On lap 2 Geri managed to repel Wooder’s attack into Campbell, but Wooder got through at the second attempt. Geri tried to defend from Brown at Seagrave, but with the long run round the back of the circuit, Brown got a tow and was able to get the nose along the inside. Worse still Harper got through shortly after – from 6th to 9th in one lap. Harper tried to pass Brown through the chicane as they went in side by side, but Brown came out in front, which allowed Geri to catch up again crossing the finishing line inches behind Harper.
Another tight line through Campbell saw another place lost as Tom Wood came round the outside and slotted between Harper and Geri. To rub salt into the wound, King came past on the inside, leaving Geri out to dry on the outside at Church. And then Fagg and Gamble followed through inside as Geri was going backwards. And finally Connor Grady came through, Geri’s only saving grace was that Perez had been judged to jump the start and came in to serve a drive through. Three laps in and down to 13th place despite all the early promise shown.
Geri made a move on Grady after Allard but was successful at his second attempt with better drive out of Seagrave. Ahead, Gamble had fallen a long way pack from the cars in front which were starting to string out. Lap 5 and another run through the complex meant Geri was climbing all over Gamble round the back of the circuit and finally managed to get a nose inside at Church, making the pass back into 11th so he could set about chasing the pack which was now a couple of seconds up the road. Harper had spun out on his own, so 5 laps in Geri was in 10th place.
On lap 6 Geri pulled back 1.7 seconds on the cars in front, Wood and Fagg had been squabbling over 8th place slowing the pair of them. The gap came down another ¼ second on lap 7, closing to touching distance at the chicane, as Fagg consolidated 8th. A poor chicane exit meant Geri lost some time on lap 8, falling to 7/10th behind, the pack concertinaed through the complex and a much better exit from Geri saw Geri pass on the inside of Church and back up to 9th. Through the chicane right on Fagg’s bumper, King forced wide managed to hold 7th – another lap and Geri would surely have picked off Fagg and maybe King.
So, one place further back than in race 1, Geri lined up behind Middleton, Tregurtha, Wooder, Roberts, Priaulx, Brown, King, and Fagg, with Wood alongside and Gamble and Hornby on thr row behind. Another good start from Geri, going into the complex he was right on Priaulx's bumper, in turn on Wooder's bumper, Wooder locking up big time. By the time they came out Geri had passed Fagg and gained another place as Roberts got muscled out and fell through the order - up to 7th place almost immediately. Behind him, Fittipaldi appeared to move lft pushing Perez into the path of Bird, the latter two being eliminated in a big accident which brought out the safety car before the leaders reached Club chicane. And typically for Geri, the gap he had opened up to Fagg behind would be lost.
Two laps behind the safety car, the stricken cars were cleared just too late to turn off the safety car lights on the first controlled lap, and then the race was back on. Geri had been careful to sit out of the slipstream in an effort to maximise cooling. The cars strung out fairly evenly from the restart, but Wooder pushed Brown off through the complex, Brown just missing Geri as he came back on the track, but Geri got through moving up to 6th place. Geri was tucked in behind King, who equally was right behind Priaulx. Behind Geri was Hornby, Brown and Fagg, the front nine cars covered by less than two seconds at the end of lap 5.
There was a titanic battle going on at the front between Wooder, Middleton and Tregurtha which was helping the next pack edge closer and closer. Brown had broken Fagg so the front pack was 8 cars covered by 1.8 seconds after 6 laps. It all kicked off on lap 7, battling for the lead, Wooder put Middleton on the grass, he rejoined back in 8th. Geri was now 5th 1.1 seconds behind leader Tregurtha, then Wooder, Priaulx and King with Hornby and Brown right on his tail. The front 7 sere separated by 1.6 seconds, you could almost throw a blanket over them.
Wooder passed Tregutha going into the complex, Brown got passed Hornby on lap 8 with a better run out, the pair running side by side up to Church where Brown finally made the move stick.
Geri tried to go outside to pass King coming down to the chicane but had to tuck back in behind him. Across the line for the penultimate time Geri was 1.001 off the lead, and in 5th! The seven car train went into the complex, Brown taking a slightly wider sweep which allowed him to cut back inside Geri coming out of Seagrave, the slipstream alowing him to pass Geri on the inside. Geri moved over to cover off Hornby and maintain his 6th position. Wooder took his first win, the front seven crossed the line just 1.7 seconds apart.
Not as many points as we might have hoped for, but Geri gained points on 6th placed Roberts and 5th placed Harper, though Priaulx has moved up to 8th and in contention. Hopefully we can finally make that step up to the podium next time out at Oulton Park.
See the full timing details from TSL here
Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.
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