Silverstone 8-9 June 2019 - Ginetta GT5 Challenge
Round 3 of the 2019 Protyre Ginetta GT5 Challenge heralded our return to the iconic Silverstone GP circuit. Last year didn't go to plan, we just had no pace despite the team changing the engine, gearbox, diff, ECU, wiring loom - pretty well everything really. On the other hand, our new car was fastest through all the speed traps last year when Richard drove it - no pressure then!
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See the official pre-event review.
Friday testing was a mixture of wet and very wet, the latter involving streams of water resting across the track and cars aquaplaning. There were four alloted sessions during the day, the first of these was red flagged with Geri having only completed one full lap. We did get some laps in during the second and third sessions, running on older tyres, and appeared to be running about a second slower than the main competitors. For the final session, Geri changed to a new set of wets with the intention of scrubbing them in ready for morning qualifying. He had just completed his second lap as the session was stopped with cars falling off the track everywhere. Geri commented that his new tyres had come on straight away and he had so much grip.
Geri got straight down to business and posted the fastest two first laps before other drivers gained confidence in the conditions. Just as we thought we had pole in the bad, Mutch posted a time 4 seconds clear of Geri, but his transponder didn't seem to be working, so we were wondering was it real? Geri's third lap pulled the gap back to 1.8 from pole, but it still seemed to be a long way back.
Lap four and Mutch posted 3 purple sectors, his transponder now working, showing his previous best was definitely real. Just as he looked to set an even lower target, he collided with Abbi Pulling at Brooklands, spinning the pair of them round and Mutch was forced to come into the pits.
Lap five and Geri dropped the gap to just under a second as he moved back to second place, but McKenna would pop in two fast laps at the end of the session moving him to second on the grid and demoting Geri to third. The all important second fastest laps went in the order McKenna, Mutch, Geri - so a pair of starts from third. Although disappointed not to be on pole after feeling very confident, Geri was happy to achieve his best Ginetta qualifying performance to date.
Race 1 (Saturday):
The grid for race 1 lined up as Mutch, McKenna, Ger, Smalley, Malin, Milner< Bowers & del Sarte. For the first time in about 2 days the rained had stopped during the morning and now the track was dry but on line there were damp patches, and puddles off track. Certainly there was no debate over tyres, slicks were the order of the day so we bolted on 2 new slicks along with 2 previously used ones.
The grid spacing at Silverstone seems longer than other circuits cutting Geri's chances of launching between the two drivers in front. And controversially, pole at Silverstone is on the outside heading towards Copse. Geri got off to a good start, in front of him Mutch dived across to the right as Geri passed him into second, McKenna had space to position left and make the entry to Copse wider. Geri was following McKenna through Maggots/Becketts and onto the Hangar Straight, probably 3 car lengths behind. But Geri was under pressure from behind, and had to take a defensive line to the right on the straight.
Through Vale and Club, McKenna was now pulling out a gap, along the new start/finish straight, while the track was dry on the outside, the inside was very damp negating any lunch down the inside into Abbey. Again Geri was having to defend through Turn 13, and again through Turn 14 compromising his speed on the Wellington Straight. And McKenna was getting away.
Coming into Brooklands, again Geri had to go defensive moving over to the left early as Smalley was piling on the pressure - Smalley was able to get inside through Luffield and though it looked like Geri would be able to hold him off, Smalley had the inside line for Copse. Geri cut back inside, Smalley ran wide right outside the green kerb, the two cars now rushing down towards Maggots side by side. Geri was concentrating on Smalley to his left only for Malin to blast by on his right into Maggots! Geri and Smalley continued to battle it out, Geri still somehow ahead leaving Chapel, but Smalley just blasted by along Hangar Straight. Geri was hoping to strike straight back at Stowe but Smalley was covering off the inside - and Geri had forgotten about the outside as del Sarte came down the left and round the outside at Stowe, and going outside Smalley too.
With Smalley and del Sarte side by side coming into Vale, Geri had nowhere to go, and now Mutch dived inside as the pack turned into Vale. Geri tried to cut outside Mutch as he left Vale, but there was a big puddle on the outside kerb, running through it dragged Geri backwards and now Harrison was able to pass Geri too. It would get worse, Geri had been slowed so much that Milner dived past coming into Abbey. From 2nd to eighth was not the progress we were looking for.
Geri repassed Milner at the end of Wellington Straight, so back to 7th. But only two laps in and M
Lap three, with McKenna already a long way ahead, this was a battle for second place, but with Geri back in 7th, there was a lot of work to do. Geri was all over Harrison through Becketts and as all drivers lined on the right down Hangar Straight, Geri pulled out wide left and round the outside of Harrison at Stowe, and onto the tail of Mutch running up to Vale - 6th. Gesticulating at Mutch to get chasing the pack in front, Geri dived inside at Turn 13 cutting back into 14 and onto the Wellington Straight ahad of Mutch - 5th - but a long way back from 4th placed sel Sarte. Two seconds back.
Just when we thought Geri was on the move, he was back to 6th as Mutch got by on the inside at Stowe. On lap 5 Geri pulled two tenths of the gap back, down to 0.4. Geri was now putting Mutch under pressure, in front the gap to del Sarte at the back of the pack was down to 0.9 again. Lap six, coming into Vale Geri almost ran into the back of Mutch, diving right as Mutch ran up behind del Sarte. Geri got alongside and fractionally ahead of Mutch, but behind on the inside, Vale belonged to Mutch. Geri took a wide entrance into T13 hoping to cut back at T14, while Mutch managed to make a move on the inside stick and take over 4th place. Geri got a great exit onto Wellington Straight and passed del Sarte, now Geri was all over Mutch. Geri's exit meant he got more than half a car length past Mutch, but on the outside, so Mutch was able to turn in ahead. The cars were a couple of feet apart as they switched from Brooklands to Luffield, suddenly Mutch's car seemed to stutter and Geri couldn't help running into Mutch's offise rear corner pushing his bumper forwards to it rubbed on the rear tyre. Geri then went to the outside and managed to beat Mutch to the line by 5/100ths. Back to 4th.
McKenna now had a six second lead from Mailn and Smalley (just half a second apart), Geri was 3.5 seconds further back. Mutch was losing ground and places behind as del Sarte moved back to 5th, but he was more than a second a lap slower than Geri who was now in clear air all around. Try as he might Geri couldn't make an impression on the front three, the race ending with a win for McKenna by 7 seconds from Smalley who had passed Malin with 2 laps to go. Malin took his first podium 4/10ths further back, then Geri 3.3 seconds back in 4th and 7 seconds ahead of del Sarte.
Race 2 (Sunday):
Sunday's race would be early doors, at 10:30 to allow for the three hour British GT race late in the day. Once again it would be dry, this time with no damp patches/puddles/etc. to catch the unaway. With the grid decided on 2nd qualifying times, the order was McKenna, Mutch, Geri, Smalley, Malin, Milner, Bowers and del Sarte. Reigning GRDC champion Golding was back in 13th place and was yet to translate good speed into good results.
For possibly the first time this season, Mutch good a good start. Not as good as McKenna but this time good enough to get to the first corner ahead of Geri. Through Copse and down to Maggots, Mutch seemed to be all over the place as he followed McKenna and was in turn being followed by Geri - but Smalley got the run out of Becketts and past Geri for 3rd. Here we go again?
Smalley and Mutch stayed to the right approaching Stowe, McKenna had the luxury of not having to defend so was able to take a wide entry to Stowe - as did Geri from behind. To no avail, Geri closed right up on Smalley through the exit but remained in 4th through Vale and beyond. Geri had another bit at T13 getting alongside Smalley again but then cut back inside T14 to get a good exit onto Wellington Straight. Side by side they ran up the straight, at the end Geri positioned himself left of the line of cement dust and took an early turn into Brooklands, making the move stick. McKenna ended the lap 0.7 ahead of Mutch, himself 1.5 ahead of Geri.
Geri was on a mission and gaining on the lead pair, but still had Smalley to think about, keeping a close eye to his outside at Stowe, but Geri maintained place and pace. Geri was still gaining on the leaders, at T14 the pressure paid off as Mutch spun out in front of Geri, Geri managing to run outside and avoid him. The gap to McKenna was down to 1.8 with Smalley 3/10ths behind. But in fourth was Golding who had just set fastest lap and come through from 13th on the grid. Golding got past Smalley on lap 3 and was now challenging Geri.
Golding got inside Geri at Stowe, Geri running out wide to maintain his place and picking up a track limits warning for his troubles. Behind, del Sarte ran into the back of Smalley going through Vale spinning him round. The engine stalled and Smalley was unable to restart until the marshalls push started him, by now he had fallen back to 29th. Lap 4 and Golding came flashing past Geri on the left running down to Maggots, but his straightlining Maggots cost him speed through Becketts and Geri came out of Chapel back in front. Geri had to defend into Stowe, Golding cut inside and pulled alongside again, but once again Geri was able to hold him off.
Lap 5 and Golding came through again before Becketts, this time passing early enough to keep a line into Maggots, Geri fought back and they touched through Becketts breaking Geri's nearside bonnet pin, leaving the top edge of the bonnet flapping up a little. Geri tried to pass Golding round the outside at Stowe but it didn't work. Golding had a very wide exit to Stowe, but kept his lead up to Vale. At turn 13 Golding took too much kerb on the inside causing the rear of the car to start to slide. He turned into turn 14 then suddenly the car spat back the other way and Golding drove straight ahead and off the track putting Geri back into 2nd. Golding rejoined in 6th, at the back of the pack comprising Geri, del Sarte, Malin and Harrison.
Golding repassed Harrison on lap 6, del Sarte was now pressuring Geri coming round the outside at Stowe then passing into Vale. Geri just waited for the switchback and cut back inside to regain 2nd place. Geri now started to gap del Sarte, by lap 8 Golding and Harrison had now passed del Sarte, once again Golding would be Geri's nearest challenger. On the fina lap (9) it was all change behind Geri again as just 0.8 covered Harrison, Golding, del Sarte and Malin although a number of time penalties had been handed around which changed the final order to McKenna, Geri, Harrison, Malin, del Sarte and Milner with Golding dropped back to 11th.
Prior to Silverstone, Geri led the championship from Smalley and McKenna by 18 and 37 points respectively, he leaves with a lead of 18 and 39 points but with his challengers swapped round. Donington in 2 weeks will be interesting with Geri needing to regain the momentum from his challengers.
Nicosia said “Saturday was disappointing, I had the pace for a podium but made a mistake or two which set me back a long way. I was pleased to get back to a good result on the Sunday and maintain my championship lead”.
See the full timing and results for the weekend here.
See the full standings here.