Oulton Park 4/5 June 2016 - Ginetta Junior
Geri arrived at Oulton Park in confident mood, we had tested in poor conditions and looked forwards to racing in good weather. The forecast was for a mixed bag, warm, sunny and dry but with thunderstorms expected late Saturday afternoon to stir things up.
The first test session on Friday didn't go well. While Priaulx showed that a JHR car could run top three, the remaining cars were way down, Geri languishing in 12th place complaining about lack of tow. While he appeared pretty quick through the first sector, the second and third sectors were not so good.
Back out in the later session, at least there was improvement. Priaulx now topped the charts, Geri was almost 0.7 behind in 7th place, but felt there was room to improve. All in all confidence was better for the race day.
See all the times from Friday Free Practice here.
All pictures on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography
An early morning start to free practice and we seemed back to square 1. Trying to get the right tow just wsn't working out and Geri was disappointed to be down in 11th place at the end of it. He felt the pace was there if only he could get the right conditions out on track. At least for qualifying he would be prepared.
The JHR cars lined up at the front of the queue for Qualifying, with only Ayres ahead of them. Geri went out on track behind Perez, who in turn was behind Skiba. the weather forecast was shwoing possible rain imminenetly, so we told Geri to get a banker lap in fast, just in case. On the outlap Perez passed Skiba coming out of the chicane, Geri passed him into Lodge hoping to follow Perez round for the first lap. But Perez lifted before Lodge and Geri found himslef climbing all over Ayres, who in turn he passed across the start line for the first lap. That this proved to be Geri's fastest lap of the session summe up all that was going wrong as he towed the whole team round in his wake.
During later laps in the session, whenever Geri found himself behind the other cars, they would back out early in the lap, seemingly not wanting to work with each other. Indeed, we already knew that Priaulx did not want to work with anyone as this message came back when Geri asked if they could work together.
For all the pace we were sure Geri had, once again qualifying let us down with 10th not being an indication of where he should be. To add insult to injury, three of the team had qualified 3rd, 4th and 7th, all being dragged round by Geri. The only saving grace for us was that at least we didn't have Roberts' problems, his car just strangely very slow everywhere. Geri had a strong discussion with the team after qualifying and made sure his feelings were known.
The expected storms were not happening, it was now bright, sunny, dry and warm. The grid had lined up Tregurtha, Priaulx, Perez, Fagg, Middleton, Hornby, Wooder (serving a five place grid penaly from Thruxton), Brown, Harper and Geri.
Geri got off to a decent start but still exited Old Hall in 10th place having to concede to Harper on the inside. But the run down to Cascades was crowded and Geri passed Brown on the inside, then Harper coming out of Cascades and closing right up on Hornby and Priaulx. Geri tried to go down the outside at the Hairpin and passed Hornby, drawing alongside Priaulx, but as they turned in Geri was pushed outwards and Harper nipped back through on the inside. Geri followed the train up towards Lodge where he was defensive, Harper takling an outside line almost got hit by Geri as he cut back across Geri's nose.
Geri ended the first lap just 2 seconds off Tregurtha, leading from Fagg, Perez, Middleton, Wooder, Priaulx, Harper, then Geri with Gamble, Brown and Hornby in close attendance. Priaulx and Wooder had an incident at Cascades that saw Wooder pushed off wide onto the infield grass and Priaulx slowed so Geri could outdrag him down the straight. Up into 6th in only a lap and a bit!
A tight inside line at the Hairpin saw Geri hold position although Brown had tried to go round the outside. Approaching the chicane Harper braked inexplicably early causing Geri to run into the back of him (there goes another bonnet pin) but both drivers were able to continue apace although Harper now had a small gap back to Geri. Geri was closing back up but defended into Lodge, Priaulx came from nowhere round the outside launching across in front of Geri, Brown tried to follow but Hornby was able to close him out. So temporarily up to 6th but back to 7th across the line as the order was Tregurtha, Fagg, Perez, Middleton, Harper, Priaulx, Geri, Hornby and Brown.
Geri had a faster run through Old Hall than Priaulx and was right on his bumper at the exit, maintaining pressure through Cascades. It paid off at Priaulx braked too late for the Hairpin, geri able to pass cleanly on the inside and set about chasing back to Harper who had now opened up a gap, and indeed was challenging Middleton as the pair ran side by side towards the chicane. Middleton held him off, Harper took a sweeping wide line in and then turned left too soon, smacking into the tyres demarking the chicane on the left as he went through. Tregurtha and Fagg were now a second apart at the front, with a small gap back to Perez, Middleton, Harper and Geri who was no longer having to defend, there was a second and a half gap back to Brown and Hornby who ended lap 3 side by side. At this point, Geri was a second behind Harper, 4 behind Tregurtha.
Geri gained half a second on Harper over the next two laps, starting lap 6 still the same 4 seconds behind Tregurtha, but crucially just 0.5 behind Harper. Geri was visibly better on the brakes into the Hairpin, on lap six Geri was right back on Harper's bumper. Ahead of him Middleton had been challenging Perez for 3rd place and held each other up, so the 4 cars exited the Hairpin closed right up. Geri was piling in the pressure again, and again it paid off as Harper took too much kerb going into the chicane, again turned left too early striking the tyres again, this time spinning him round. Geri was unable to avoid giving Harper a glancing blow but Harper was already more than ninety degrees round at that point.
So up into 5th, but Perez and Middleton had pulled away as Geri lost some momentum going through the chicane (and Harper). Geri's bonnet was lifting a lot more down, visibly flapping. Geri ended lap 6 a second down on 4th placed Perez, two more quick laps, running at the same pace as Tregurtha and Middleton saw the gap come down to 0.38 as they crossed the line to see the chequered flag. Another lap and another place mayb have been on the cards, but a good recovery drive from Geri to finish 5th (equalling his best of the season) having started 10th. Geri would be confident he could back that up with another good result in race 2.
Fifth in race 1 meant fifth on the grid for race 2, the furthest forward Geri has started a race other than the reverse grid front row slot at Donington. In front was Tregurtha, Fagg, Middleton and Perez with Brown alongside. Being on the inside for Old Hall, Geri really fancied his chances of a good start and was up for that elusive podium.
The lights went out, Geri overcooked the start and spun the wheels, his first poor start in ages. Brown got away as did the front two rows, and Hornby from behind Geri in the grid was already past before Old Hall. Geri managed to defend from Hornby but Brown had been sent way wide and as he came back on, struck Geri side-to-side, and there was the first bonnet pin already broken! Geri was fleetingingly back in front of Brown, but Brown had the inside line at Cascades and repassed for 5th place.
While the front six all stayed to the inside at the Hairpin, Hornby went steaming down the outside and right round the outside of the corner side by side with Geri. Unfortunately he ran too wide and slewed back across the track unaware that he was now putting Geri on the grass to the inside which cost Geri places, as not only Hornby had got by, but also Wooder before Geri got back on the tarmac. Down to 8th within half a lap wasn't what we were hoping for.
At Druids, Wooder got by Hornby, Geri was being preoccupied with Grady who was right on his bumper so had to defend into Lodge. This allowed Hornby to eke out a 0.6 second lead at the end of the first lap. Geri was chasing hard and was clear enough of Grady by the hairpin not to have to defend. In front, Perez had gone down the outside and round the Hairpin passing Fagg just as Hornby had done to Geri the previous lap, only Fagg clipped Perez half way round and sent him into a spin. Wooder managed to go inside Perez, Hornby and Geri went the long way round the outside as remarkably everyone missed the stationery Perez. So back to 7th and resuming the chase after Hornby, Geri now much closer.
Hornby dived inside Brown at the chicane, Geri just unable to follow him through. Brown was moving side to side trying to find a way past Hornby, finally setting up at Lodge although it was almost at Old Hall before Brown repassed. Hornby got it all wrong at Cascades, just put an outside wheel on the grass whilst exiting and suddenly his car turned left right in front of the grateful Geri who moved up into 6th. Hornby was able to resume back in 9th. Wooder got past Fagg out of the Hairpin and into 3rd with Tregurtha way out front.
On lap 4 Hornby passed King up into 8th, but then spun going into the Hairpin. Harper, a couple of places further back was unsighted and smashed straight into him. Hornby managed to recover enough to drive onto the infield looking like he might prevent the need for a safety car. But by the time Harper reached the chicane, it was evident that his car was on fire and trailing smoke behind. Brown got passed Fagg so the order was now Tregurtha, Middleton, Wooder, Brown, Fagg and Geri. Harper finally abandoned his car on the entrance to the pitlane, but enough of the car was on the track so despite Hornby's best efforts, the safety car did need to come out after all.
By the ime the Doctor car had arrived to check on Harper, and then the breakdown truck, it was evident that the race would not restart, and the chequered flag was thrown out at the end of lap 7, a lap early. With the final three laps having been run under safety car conditions, Geri could not improve on his 6th place.
Two good finishes combined with two DNFs for Harper has lifted Geri to equal 5th in the standings with Harper, both drivers on 141 points. Still a bit behind, with Tregurtha on 254, Middleton 253, Wooder 212 and Brown 190. Geri's team mates all had tough weekends so the distance back to Roberts and Priaulx has opened up again.
We now look forwards to the second of the 5 triple header races this season at Croft in a fortnight and hope to continue moving up the leader board.
See the full timing details from TSL here
Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.
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