Oulton Park 6/7 June 2015 - Ginetta Junior

Ginetta Junior:
Rounds 7 and 8 of the Kickstart Ginetta Junior championship were held at the hilly Oulton Park, the topography bringing a different challenge to the previous round at ex-airfield Thruxton. Geri Nicosia had tested at the circuit back in February and again in April having not previously raced there, and his pace suggested some top ten potential, a chance to “kickstart” his season.

For the second time this season, both races would take place on the Sunday, but first there was the small matter of the Friday test day.

For some of the drivers, GCSEs have reared their ugly head, Geri had a Biology GCSE scheduled for 1pm, and the first test session scheduled for 2:45pm - as we lack teleportation devices, we moved Geri's sitting of the exam. Big thanks go out to Tarporley High School for both assisting with the mechanism of transfer, and then allowing Geri to sit his exam there. Even so, by the time Geri got back to the circuit, there was only just enough time to get changed and jump in the car which the team had already taken to the assembly area.

The first test session was going OK other thah the two TCR cars being so far ahead of the rest. Geri was sat back in 12th of the 19 drivers who made the session, and while he was 1.935 shy of Dave Wooder, he was less than 0.9 off third place over a 105 second lap.

In the second test session less than an hour later, Geri imprtoved by 2 tenths, but dropped back to 15th. This time he was less than a second off the lead driver (Wooder again), and just a half second improvement would have placed him 4th. Just a little fine tuning needed, later investigation showed that Geri's car was slowest through all three speed traps, but as much as 9th fastest through the second sector. A late sideways moment through Druids turned out to be a nearside damper failing, so the team swapped over to a new one that afternoon.

Free Practice:
Saturday brought the best weather of the year so far, despite the short sharp shower at 6:45am, and the Ginetta Junior drivers being first out at 9:05. The session did not go well, Geri went out early in the session but became fixated on looking for a tow and fell back on track position throughout the session. With only 8 laps completed during the session, there was not time to waste, and Geri only put in his first 1:45 on his final lap, 2/10ths slower than on Friday afternoon and only good enough for 17th. We thought that with proper running Geri was still capable of moving up the grid.

Geri went out in qualfying with strict instructions to concentrate only on going fast. Once again, he was near the front on the track, within 3 laps that had chamged to being at the front on the road, so out on his own with no-one to judge against. He thought he had gone well and was massively disappointed to find he qualified back in 18th place, back in 18th place and with a best lap slower than in any of the 3 practice sessions. Once again, the data showed Geri to be slowest through the speed traps, the team had work to do to investigate. Checks showed that also the data showed that full throttle was there electronically, the physical fact was that the throttle was not fully opening. Work was carried out to rectify this, and despite starting from 18th on Sunday, we still had high hopes for the race.

Race 1:
A good start while Stacey alongside Geri on the grid got away slowly and fell back to last, one place gained by the time Geri reached the start line. Going into Old Hall Geri was already alongside Tregurtha but running wide onto the matting outside the kerb but could not make the move stick. Another place gained at the Hairpin as Hawkey found herself out on the grass and Geri right up behind Mattiessen. Matthiessen was past Tregurtha before Knickerbrook. Wooder pulled up exiting Knickerbrook with a broken propshaft, so Geri was now 15th but had lost time on the run up Clay Hill as the cars swerved round the orange Ginetta.

We had also lost Cameron Roberts from the start, so Geri ended the first lap in 14th place. Lap 2 and Geri and Tregurtha recorded identical lap times, and closed slightly on 12th placed Frank Bird. Geri passed Tregurtha on the run down to Knickerbrook on lap 3, and with Kyle Hornby coming into the pits due to bonnet damage from lap 1, Geri was now up to 12th place. Tregurtha was keeping tight on Geri but all pressure behind ended on lap 4 at Cascades as Tregurtha had a big spin and resumed some way back, leaving Geri now able to concentrate on closing down on Bird about a second in front of him. Geri lost time on Bird at the hairpin taking avoiding action and running wide on the exit as the cars came across Middleton who had spun out. Up to 11th now.

All pictures on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey unless otherwise stated

As lap 5 started, there was a 4 car train in front of Geri, headed by Monger with Chapman, Matthiessen and Bird all running nose to tail. Geri was reeling them running half a second faster than any of them.

By lap 6, Geri had closed right up, it was now a 5 car train. Coming into the Hairpin, Geri dived down the inside of Bird, but as he did so, Bird was turning in causing them to collide and Geri's front wheel pushed onto the grass. He couldn't stop and ran into Matthissen who was turning in at the apex when Geri arrived, spinning Matthiessen right roun, damaging Bird's front wheel and oops, there goes another bonnet Geri!.

Geri managed to keep going although having lost momentum he was overtaken on the up hill run towards Knickerbrook by Alex Day, but Geri was now up to 10th although for the second race running, the bonnet was flapping loose and hindering his vision. On lap 7 Geri was now holding up a train of cars right behind him, the added drag of the loose bonnet not helping his already slow speed trap times.

Middleton passed Bailey at Cascades, you could throw a blanket over Geri, Middleton, Bailey, Hawkey and Tregurtha as they ran down to the Hairpin, but Middleton ran into the back of Geri pushing him past the turning point as he went inside and dropped Geri to 11th. Hawkey dived inside Bailey at the Hairpin pushing him out wide and although he had lost a place to Middleton, Geri came out of the Hairpin with some breathing space back to the cars behind.

Geri launched over the sausage kerb at Knickerbrook, his failing bonnet not helping him see where he was going. We would have settled for 11th quite happily, but it all went wrong for Geri at Cascades when he was hit from behind, spun round and trapped pointing the wrong way between Hawkey and Green. Cars went by and Hawkey and Green had to move before Geri could donut his way back to straight and back in the race. Before he got to the Hairpin, Geri's bonnet cried enough, having just taken another beating, as half of it flew away. Geri managed to bring the car home but 11th was now 17th.

Picture courtesy Nyssa Racing

More woe after the race. The Clerk judged that Geri was at fault for the incident at the Hairpin, the penalty was 5 grid places for race 2 which came with 3 points on his licence and -9 championship points. Given we only scored 4 points in race 1, we are going backwards!

Race 2:
There was only a short break before race 2, so Elite Motorsport should be congratulated for not only swapping over a new bonnet, but also ensuring the suspension alignment was as it should be in time for Geri to make the grid - right at the back.

The smart appearance of the car was not lost on Lawrence Tomlinson, head honcho at Ginetta who commented that he was impressed by the professionalism shown by the team in carrying a spare, pre-painted bonnet ready for such instances. More kind words came as he assisted with the live race commentary and was noting how Geri was making up places.

Starting last, Geri only made up one place from the start as 22 cars remained tightly bunched up, Wooder starting two places (so directly in front of him on the grid) had not improved his position going through Cascades. As Geri arrived at the Hairpin there was mayhem ahead as Hornby and Perez weree way out wide on the grass, Geri came out in 16th place already, chasing Wooder and Stacey up the hill.

More was to come on lap 2, Geri getting down the inside of Bailey at the Hairpin and past Hawkey on the way out - now already up to 14th in just laps. Matthiessen took a punt from Middleton at Cascades on lap 3 and although he recovered, he had lost enough speed that Geri passed him before the Hairpin, on looking in his mirror Geri saw Matthissen being spun round again by another car - up to 13th place now. Monger came into pit lane on lap 4, to serve a drive through penalty for a false start, rejoining in last place and promoting Geri to 12th place. Next up were Stacey and Tregurtha, both with diffusers hanging behind their cars aftert excursions across the grass.

Lap 6 and Geri was right on Stacey's rear bumper but before he could make a move, the Safety Car flags came out. Right behind Geri at Deer Leap, Bailey had got out of shape, gone one way then the other across the track, colliding with innocent bystander Green on his way to a heavy hit with the Armco. Green managed to limp into the pit lane with a puncture and rejoin in last place, but Bailey's car took too long to retrieve for the race to get back under green flag conditions. The drivers completed two laps following the safety car across the finish line to take the chequered flag.

A great drive by Geri after the trials of the weekend, and hopefully some renewed confidence to take to the next round at Croft on June 26/27. Post race checks showed that Nicosia’s car was still slowest through the speed traps so his rise through the field was testament to his great drive. Geri said of the weekend "I was gutted to make a mistake in race 1 and throw away a good finish, but I enjoyed chasing through the pack in the second race. This results shows that I have the pace to compete inside the top ten, we just need to find the issue with the engine before the next round".

Full details from TSL for the race weekend can be seen here.

Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.

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