Silverstone National 09/10 August 2014 - Ford Fiesta Junior
Silverstone. Where the season began. And also the circuit where Geri registered his lowest results of the circuit, qualifying 3rd and finishing both races in 3rd, unable to overtake Michael, let alone Rob. We were hoping to go better this time round, Geri's recent form with 4 wins and a second in his last five races gave us hope of better than 3rd places.
Somewhat surprisingly, only Geri, Sam and Michael booked in for testing as Silverstone once again laid on 55 minutes at the end of the Friday for the juniors. Weather forecast was possible showers, but it was still warm as it had now been for a few weeks.
Julieann had done her stuff again, all the Fiesta Juniors were given a tour of the facility at iZone, and a free session on the simulator, and use of the fitness training equipment over the weekend. We went down on the Friday prior to testing. Geri went first on the simulator, set to be a current shape Fiesta, but with paddle shift gears. Geri showed consistency, and the benefits of hours on a Play Station, soon setting laps in the 1:07 area. So not very realistic, the Fiesta ST on slicks is a couple of seconds slower, with the Junior cars on treaded tyres another couple of seconds slower again. But it did look realistic and reminded Geri where the turning and braking points were, it now being 4 months since that first race weekend here.
On to testing, as usual with Chris Hodgetts. The first sign that maybe it wasn't going to be our weekend was when Geri reached the end of the pitlane before it was realised that we had forgotten to sign him in! So a quick dash back to race control to fix that followed by a quick session back out on track. Geri was running at good pace with Chris on board, then went out on his own and was running OK. We came in for a tyre change, but a wheel stud sheared off - it took most of the remainder of the short session to get Geri back out, he got in a couple of laps but was complaining of brake issues.
Overnight the team checked out the car and found that once again Geri was right - there was a problem even though not obvious at first. The brake pads backing plate was coming away on one side, a new set of pads later and the car would be right as rain.
The BRSCC had worked wonders again, this time the Fiesta Junior drivers would have 3 x 15 minute practice sessions and a 20 minute qualifying session on the Saturday. Weather was warm and sunny, but the feeling in the paddock was of impending doom for Sunday, the tail end of Hurricane Bertha was due to do her stuff. With that in mind, 3 new wet tyres were purchased in readiness, the drying track at Donington had turned 3 of Geri's wets into goo.
Nine drivers had entered, but only 8 went out in first practice. Controversy up at the WDE camp where Rob Cox's usual car was deemed not to be as right as they wanted it to be, and so Rob and Alex swapped cars. Alex didn't go out in the session. Geri used the first session to bed in his brake pads and run on old tyres. Late in the session, with Rob heading the times, Geri came in for a tyre pressure check. We sent him back out with 1:30 of the session remaining, he crossed the line with 10 seconds of the session remaining and recorded a flying lap of 1:12.071 to lead the session from Rob by 0.124. Sam Watkins had been looking quick all session, the testing from Friday showing good results.
Practice 2 was set for 11:30, Geri sat out the session. We didn't feel he could go any quicker, the temperatures were warming up and it was going to be a long day for driver and car. Better to save both from unnecessary effort. Rob showed his intent by topping this session with 1:11.803 from Michael (1:12.181) and Sam (1:12.400), while Alex did venture out for this session.
An afternoon session, this time Geri went out and Rob sat out the session, leaving Geri to top the charts on 1:12.085 from Michael and Sam. Geri's tyres were shot by now and we planned to call him in as he wasn't going to improve any further. But Geri wanted to see what difference a suspension change would make, so went out for a couple of final laps that couldn't improve - he disliked the balance so he put his car back to the previous set up for qualifying.
Rob set the early pace, setting the pole time of 1:11.752 on lap 2 backing that up with two 1:11s in laps 3 and 4. Geri had gone out on used tyres, did 2 full laps before coming back in for a tyre change, his 1:12.280 only being good enough for 3rd place, fractionally behind Michael. Out on new tyres, Geri moved into second on his first lap, went into the 1:11s the following lap but was 8/100ths shy of Rob's time. Two more slower "11s" before a run of low "12s" saw Geri try but fail to land that second pole position - and the point that came with it.
Michael's early lap of 1:12.258 gained him third place with Sam alongside on the grid and 3/10ths back. Aaron and Thomas would take 5th and 6th, just one thousandth apart, but 3/10s behind Sam, while Nathan was just 5/100ths behind the pair in front of him, then Jessica and Alex.
We arrived at Silverstone on Sunday morning to see the expected heavy rain was in full flow. We were scheduled as third session of the morning, at 09:55, but all sessions were delayed by 30 minutes - whether in some forlorn hope that the rain might abate is unknown. As it was, the race eventually started at 10:15. There were two green flag laps to give the drivers ample opportunity to check out the track. There were puddles offline and although the rain stopped for the start of the race, the track was still very wet. No one was going to gamble on dry tyres on this track.
Geri got off to a great start and straight into the lead, Rob appeared to miss a gear and Michael took advantage running inside Rob through Copse. Geri was already opening up a big lead down to Becketts, but Michael left the door open as Rob came from a long way back and moved inside Michael as they exited Becketts, Rob was back to second. Thomas was living up to his reputation as a wet weather master, already up from 6th to 4th as the drivers reached Brooklands, Michael running wide and dropping to 6th. At the end of the first lap Geri led Rob by 1.3 seconds, from Aaron and Thomas (themselves just 2/10ths apart), then Sam, Michael, Nathan, Jessica and Alex. Thomas moved up into 3rd on lap two as both he and Rob broke into the 1:15s, Geri's lead cut by 1/2 second as he explored the grip levels out front. Lap 3 and again Rob was gaining, Thomas was faster still and now catching up with Rob.
All pictures on this page courtesy Rachel Bourne
Rob was closing on Geri, on lap 4 he was close as they braked for Becketts, down the Wellington Straight, Rob was right on Geri's tail. Coming into Brooklands, Geri stayed out to take a wide line in, Rob had a look inside and then dived inside to take the lead. Thomas was now closing up on Geri, 4th placed Aaron already 4 seconds adrift of the front three. Geri continued with his wide line into Brooklands, on lap 5 Thomas had a peek down the inside but backed out again. Geri was now having to defend from Thomas, Rob was faster up front and pulling out the gap.
Thomas crossed the line just 2/10ths behind Geri at the start of lap 7, Rob had broken clear and had a 1 second lead. At Brooklands, Geri still hadn't learned and Thomas came inside to take second place. Only Geri wasn't giving it up that easily and took a tighter line through Luffield, Thomas and Geri running almost side by side down the straight. Thomas crossed the line 6/100ths in front, but Geri held the inside line through Copse and retook second place momentarily. Thomas got better traction and repassed on the run down to Becketts, but went in too hot and got sideways allowing Geri through again. This time Geri crossed the line 9/10ths ahead of Thomas, but Rob was 8/10th faster again that lap. Lap 9 and Thomas was the fastest, pulling back half the gap to Geri.
Lap 10 Thomas again made a move into Brooklands, this time they went side by side through Brooklands, through Luffield and down the straight, passing the line almost level with each other. Thomas got the line into Copse this time, Geri chased round for a lap but then Thomas had a big slide through Copse and Geri took advantage again. Thomas tried to go round the outside at Becketts but Geri came out in second place. Thomas got better exit from Luffield on lap 11 and although Geri crossed the line first, Thomas simply drove past before they got to Copse. Side by side through Copse as Geri took the tighter line through, so close they brushed door mirrors, but the outside lime meant that Thomas could carry extra speed and finally took back second place running down to Becketts. With Thomas and Geri having spent so long playing cat and mouse, Rob had driven away and now had a 6 second lead.
Two laps to go, nothing Geri could do. Rob won the race by 6.7 seconds from Thomas with Geri 3rd, 3/4 second behind. Michael had been 5 seconds behind Geri after 9 laps, but with the pair in front slowing each other, he caught up dramatically and finished in 4th place, just 1/2 second behind Geri. Another lap or two and Michael may well have been on the podium. Sam was 5th, 4 seconds further back, but over 10 seconds clear of 6th placed Aaron, with Nathan and Jessica 7th and 8th. Alex finished his first wet race a lap down in Rob's usual car which plainly still had problems.
Taking the pole point for race 2 into account, Rob's win with fastest lap pulled the gap between Geri and Rob at the top of the championship down to just 3 points, and 4 wins each. Another win in race 2 and Rob would take back the championship lead.
Watch the race 1 video here.
Watch the race 1 video from the rear camera here.
Rain had come and gone through the day, but heavy downpours before race 2 meant that the track was now much more slippery than earlier, even though the sun was now out. The Clerk had relayed a message to the drivers that any excessive weaving could spit them off the track, and there was standing water in many places, including the outside of Brooklands. The cars lined up in finishing order from race 1, so Rob, Thomas, Geri, Michael, Sam, Aaron, Nathan, Jessica and Alex.
This time everyone got off to a decent and even start. Thomas tried to go inside Rob at Copse but had to give way. Geri had got clear of Michael which left room for Sam to push through and go round Copse side by side with Michael, they would continue side by side down the straight to the Becketts braking zone, where Michael lost places to Sam and Aaron. Geri tried a tight entry to Brooklands in an effort to pass Thomas but Thomas defended, Geri tried an inside line again at Luffield but was left with a poor exit speed. One lap gone and Rob led Thomas by 4/10ths, Geri 7/10ths behind with Sam just 4/10ths behind Geri.
Geri closed right up on Thomas into Becketts, almost driving into him, Rob had a slidey exit and the three drivers were closed right up again. At the end of the Wellington straight, the front three were nose to tail, Sam a second further back. Thomas stayed over to the left, Geri to the right hoping to get better visibility. Thomas went into Brooklands to the inside, Rob to the outside and they were side to side as Geri followed them in hoping to get right on Rob's bumper. But disaster as Geri put a wheel onto the slippery kerb, the tail kicked out and then the car swung back the other way, right round and off the track to the outside of the circuit and across the grass. Geri came to a halt before hitting the wall, but the damage was done - he rejoined just as Alex was approaching Brooklands, careful to sit on the edge of the track as he build up speed and rejoin in 8th place, 15 seconds off the lead and 7.5 seconds behind 7th placed Jessica.
Rob crossed the line just 2/100ths ahead of Thomas, with Sam a second further behind, then Aaron a further second back with Michael close behind. Next time round Thomas made his move on Rob, this time it was Thomas who got the better run to the line to lead by 6/100ths. Sam had closed the gap to 6/10ths, meanwhile Geri had taken 1.6 seconds out of the gap to Jessica. Lap 4, Thomas extended his lead to 2/10ths, as the pair raced in close proximity at the front. Sam dropped back a little, and although Thomas had set the fastest lap on lap 2, Geri was the quickest of all the drivers on laps 3 and 4, running in clean air and taking another 1.3 seconds out of the gap to Jessica. Lap 5 and the gap from Thomas to Rob was now 0.23, Geri again running fractionally quicker than the front pair and the gap to Jessica was less than 3 seconds. Jessica was in turn gaining on Nathan.
The front three dropped into the 16s on lap 6, Thomas setting the fastest lap again and moving his lead out to 0.35, approximately a gap of one car length between them. Sam lowered the fastest lap to 1:16.751 on lap 7 while Rob pulled back 4/100ths on Thomas. Geri was now a car length behind Jessica, although it would take him until the end of the Wellington straight the following lap to be able to pass her and move into 7th. By now Jessica had caught up with Nathan, Geri chased Nathan across the line, through Copse and then went round the outside of Nathan at Becketts - Geri was now up to 6th, but 10 seconds behind 5th placed Aaron.
Back at the front, lap times had slowed temporarily, back into the 17s but Thomas and Rob were running almost identical lap times as the gap sat around 3/10ths, with Sam sitting in close attendance in 3rd. Sam set a new fastest lap on lap 11, 1:15.519, which would hold fast until the end of the race giving Sam his first ever fastest lap point. Lap 12 and Rob made his biggest gain for many laps bring the gap back to 0.2 seconds, a lap later it was 0.19 as the two cars were almost bumper to bumper all around the circuit. Lap 14 and Rob made a wide move round the outside at Brooklands, but Thomas needed all the track and they came into contact side to side. As a result Rob went onto the grass inside Brooklands but was unable to stop on the wet grass, colliding at a point part way round Luffield with Thomas, spinning them both out. Sam and Michael took full advantage and passed Thomas while he recovered. Rob had a damaged front wheel but had been lucky enough that it happened just before the pit entrance. He was able to come into the pits where his team changed a wheel allowing him to rejoin back in 8th place. With 2 DNFs already as his dropped scores, getting back out on track to be classified as a finisher was vital.
2 laps to go, Sam had a 3.5 second advantage over Michael, Thomas was 5 seconds further behind in 3rd. The front three maintained the status quo as Sam became the 5th winner this season (Thomas had previously held that accolade before the Cadwell Park win was awarded back to Geri).
Geri had been gaining on Aaron at nearly a second a lap, but needed many more laps to make up the gap. Rob's pit stop had promoted Geri to 5th but damage to his championship points was lessened as this became one of Geri's dropped scores, he effectively gained points for a 3rd place previously dropped. We got lucky, the worst round of the season for Geri with a 3rd place and a 5th place, yet still only dropping 1 point to Rob and Thomas, and maintaining the gap to Michael. With two rounds left, its Geri 290, Rob 282, Michael 276, Thomas 272. Sam now moves up into 5th on 255 but it looks like he has hit form too late.
Watch the first 2 laps of race 2 video here.
Watch the race 2 video - first 12 minutes - from the rear camera here
Please see the official race report here.
Check out the Fiesta Junior points standings.
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