Croft 18/19 June 2016 - Ginetta Junior
Geri had to miss the official Ginetta Test day at Croft due to sitting an A level Maths paper, and worse, also missed the JHR Developments exclusive test day due to a Physics paper. So already we were on the back foot with most drivers having completed well in excess of 100 laps of Croft in dry testing. We managed to get a slot on the Monday preceding the race weekend with Opentrack for a Track Day at Croft, the disadvantage here is that despite Geri having turned 17 2 days earlier, having not yet passed his driving test meant that Geri was obliged to run with an instructor. To add to the problems, Monday was a wet day with the track varying from very slippery in the morning to slightly damp in the afternoon, with ever changing conditions as more light rain showers occured throughout the day.
Still, we made the best of the situation as we could and felt that Geri should be able to maintain his top six running as per his last three races.
Friday Free Practice 1:
It was evident straight away that all was not good, Geri unable to show the expected pace. He only completed 6 laps before coming into the pits complaining of poor straight line speed and randomly wayward handling - neither of these had been in evidence on Monday. Geri was so slow that he was languishing back in 19th place of the 20 drivers! The team soon realised that there would not be a simple fix, the rear brakes appeared to be sticking so Geri was sent back to the team garage in the Paddock so the team could start investigating straight away.
Friday Free Practice 2:
Sticking brakes appeared to be just one of Geri's problems. The team stripped out the rear calipers and changed them over for new ones. But Geri had also reported diff chatter and a gearbox changing down more than one gear. The diff came out and was changed over to the Ginetta loan diff, the rear wheels appeared to be freer when turned in the garage but the proof would be in the running.
The team were still working on the car when the second practice session started, in fact Geri only made it out for two laps right at the end due to the quick turnaround needed. Things seems no better - even with two laps Geri was more than capable of getting a respectable time in, but once again he was 19th in session.
The team worked late into the evening before putting the car to bed minus gearbox, diff and rear brakes - with a trip to the Ginetta stores truck booked for 7:30am - and the hope they would be open as planned. Qualifying was set for 10:30am as this was the second of the triple header rounds this season. So no chance to check whether the next set of fixes would have worked.
See all the times from Friday Free Practice here.
All pictures on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography
A nice early start for the team on Saturday, and some sterling work from Geri's team saw him out in the assembly area in time for the morning qualifying session. If this had been a standard double header weekend, we would have had a practice session to be certain, but as it was, it was straight into qualifying with everything crossed!
Things looked better, by lap three Geri was right up to speed and flying through the first two sectors, but a poor final sector left Geri 0.85 adrift of Middleton's best lap so far. And that was how it stayed, Geri's best lap only being good enough for 14th on the grid. After the session, Geri was complaining of poor traction out of the hairpin and the car turning right better than left, hence really good through Sunny In/Out but not so good almost everywhere else.
Back in the garage and while we were pleased that the gearbox and the brakes seemed to be behaving, further issues were found with the near side shock absorber and suspension settings. We these found and resolved, we were confident that Geri should at least be competitive in the races and would just have to keep out of trouble and work his way forwards.
One thing we learned last year was that overtaking is surprisingly difficult at Croft, Geri was going to have his work cut out if he was to maintain his record of finsihing every race in the top ten. He was back on the 7th row of the grid, surprisingly perhaps, Lewis Brown was sat alongside Geri while teammates Hornby and Roberts filled the row ahead.
A good start was what Geri needed, and a good start is he what he got, at first tucking inside to benefit from a tow from Roberts, then following Roberts round the outside into Clervaux going past Brown, Hornby and Fittipaldi. Round the next corner and trouble at the front with Perez and Tregurtha spinning out at Hawthorn, avoiding these let Fittipaldi back through, with Hornby regaining the place after the chicane where Geri had been forced wide left. Brown and Grady went round the outside at Tower where Geri got caught in the log jam on the inside line, but Geri got the better of Grady through the Jim Clark Esses. Half a lap in and two places gained in total although fleetingly we had been up to 9th.
Hornby and Brown got by Fittipaldi out of Sunny Out, this would have an affect on Geri who was next up. Braking for the right hander at the Complex, Geri was caught by Fittipaldi's braking and had to jink outside to avoid a big collision, allowing Wood, Grady and Bird to get past, and while a very tight line at the hairpin allowed Geri to fight off Collard, King went right round the outside, demoting Geri to 15th at the end of the first lap.
Three laps in and while Geri closed up onto King at the hairpin, Perez had caught back up and went past Geri down the straight on the way into Clervaux. Down to 16th!. Geri got a much better line through Tower and was right on Perez' bumper into Sunny In, the pressure causing Perez to run wide, Geri regaining his position before Sunny Out and could set about trying to get back with the 5 car train squabbling over 10th place.
By the left hand entry to the complex, the cars were all but 6 abreast going in as a result of Fittipaldi running wide at Sunny Out and the ensuing shuffling of the pack. By the hairpin, Tregurtha, Perez and Collard were joining in to what was now a 10 car scrap racing to get to the line. King lost out as Geri crossed the line three abreast with Fittipaldi and Bird, passing those two between the start line and Clervaux - all this just to get up to 12th place, but with the resurgent Tregurtha all over his rear bumper.
Another great run through Tower saw Geri pulling alongside Grady, but Grady was just far enough ahead that Geri had to yield by Barcroft. Geri was trying everything, getting his bonnet up alongside Grady through Sunny Out and into the hairpin, but both times, Geri was on the outside and could not make the pass stick. Geri was visibly faster through Hawthorn, again through Tower, but could not find a way past Grady, who in turn was right on Wood's bumper in the battle for 10th place. Grady tried to go inside Wood at Barcroft, the cars collided sending Grady spinning back across the track straight in front of Geri who had to lift, allowing Tregurtha a clear run past. So still 12th, but now behind Tregurtha and Wood.
And despite a faster last lap than Wood, Geri was unable to improve on 12th place, his record of top ten finishes now ended, and all to do in the next two races. The plus point was that the issues with the car were fully resolved so Geri would have a fair crack at moving forwards.
Twelfth was a long way back, Geri was sitting on the outside of Wood with Tregurtha directly in front of him, ahead of those were Middleton, Priaulx, Harper, Fagg, Caldwell, Roberts, Gamble, Brown and Hornby. Maybe Geri could follow Tregurtha through the pack?
Hornby looked to get a flyer as he moved across in front of Tregurtha before going back to the inside before Clearvaux, while Geri tucked in behind Tregurtha. By Tower, Tregurtha has got clear and despite running side by side down the straight, Geri had to concede position to Hornby who took an outside line at Tower. But Wood had been passed to gain a place. Caldwell had been muscled down the order in various incidents, Hornby pushed past him through the Jim Clark Esses with Geri following right behind, so up to 10th. The order at the end of the first lap was Middleton, Harper, Priaulx, Brown, Fagg, Roberts, Tregurtha, Gamble, Hornby, Geri with Fittipaldi next up behind.
The front four slowly broke free from the following 6 cars who formed the second pack, although 5 laps in, Geri at the back of the second pack was still only 6.6 seconds off the lead and 2.5 seconds adrift of fifth placed Fagg. But all the drivers were finding overtaking difficult. By the end of lap 3 the 6 car train were almost abreast at the hairpin as they all jockeyed for position and tried to gain an advantage on each other.
At the end of lap 6 Geri tried something different and went straight down the outside of the hairpin going in very deep before cutting back. Ahead, and in the middle of the second pack, Roberts had tried to pass Tregurtha but ended up spinning round. Everyone managed to avoid him but Geri got the better run out and was able to outdrag Hornby before the finish line. And so up to 8th.
Tregurtha finally got past Fagg going into Clervaux on lap 8 (the final lap), coming out Gamble also forced his way through and Geri was right on Fagg's bumper. Coming towards Tower, Fagg swung right and his front offside struck the rear nearside of Gamble sending Fagg into a tankslapper and allowing Geri (and Hornby and Wooder) to move up a place. So up to 7th place. Gamble remained defensive through the complex and hairpin, so Geri finished the race in 7th place, but would now be on the inside for race 3.
For race 3, the front four rows of the grid were Brown, Priaulx, Harper, Middleton, Tregurtha, Gamble, Geri and Hornby - with Wooder and Fagg making up row 5. There was mayhem at the start - Middleton had moved over to the right quickly and ahead of Priaulx, Geri stayed tucked on Tregurtha's rear bumper and followed him past Priaulx when suddenly Middleton was spun round and sent to the outside gravel trap, Gamble also spun round and stricken in the trap, Harper speared off to the infield, Hornby ran into the stricken Middleton and Fagg was unable to stop before joining them in the gravel damaging his bonnet.
Out of the mayhem, Brown led from Tregurtha and Geri! There was already a gap back to fourth placed Wooder, could this finally be Geri's maiden podium? Round the first lap, Geri was chasing Tregurtha hard and the front three were opening up a gap behind. Unfortunately there was too much carnage at Clervaux and the inevitable safety car came out, bunching up the cars.
There were two full safety cars before they were released again on lap 4. The first lap saw the front four running at speed, Geri and Wooder remaining in touch with the lead pair, but by lap 5 Geri was having to defend from Wooder which allowed Brown and Tregurtha to start pulling away. It also allowed Perez and the hard charging Roberts (who had rocketed from 20th to 8th on the first lap!) to join in the battle for 3rd.
On lap 5 it all went wrong, Wooder outbraked Geri into Sunny In and the two ran side by side through Sunny Out and down to the Complex, giving each other the room to do so, but Woder made the pass stick at the left hander, and now Perez was right on Geri's bumper. Geri went defensive at the hairpin allowing Wooder to build up an 8/10th lead. Wooder and Geri were evenly matched on lap 6, Geri gaining jsut 4/1000ths, before pulling back another 3.10ths on lap 7 as he broke clear of Perez. Another 2/10ths gain on lap 8 left Geri 3/10ths behind Wooder with a lap to go. Geri was right on Wooder coming towards Tower and tried to take an outside line to make a move, but couldn't carry enough speed. There was barely a car length between them, through Sunny In again Geri ran to an outside line and closed right up, they even touched at the right hander before the hairpin, but it was no use, and Wooder crossed the finish line just 2/10ths ahead. That elusive podium was getting closer, Geri having to console himself with 4th place, his best finish to date.
Harper started the weekend with two podiums so pulled clear in 5th overall leaving Geri in 6th place at the half point of the season. There are still 13 races spread over 5 weekends to go, still time for some good results to move Geri higher in the overall standings.
See the full timing details from TSL here
Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.
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