Snetterton 8/9 August 2015 - Ginetta Junior

Ginetta Junior:
After a six week break, the Ginetta Junior season restarted at Snetterton. Geri had a productive summer testing schedule and had High hopes for the second half of the season. There was also the fact that this was the first circuit where Geri had already raced a Ginetta Junior before, culminating in a podium in the final race of the 2014 Winter Series.

Friday free testing was a mixed bag, on the plus side was Geri was running in the 21s, much as expected but beinmg back in 19th place wasn't quite what was expected. The issue was one of not getting a tow and poor positioning out on track, we would surely get better in the second session. Lap times were generally slower in the afternoon session, and while the improvement in position was only up to 17th, Friday testing is not much of a guide as we don't know what strategy other drivers are running.

The Friday testing times can be seen here.

Free Practice:
Saturday morning free practice showed the hope was justified as Geri finished the session in 12th place, his best of the season so far. Geri had not managed to get a clear run with a tow for a complete lap, so his fastest sectors were all in different laps, With small set up changes for qualifying and putting his sectors together, there was confidence of a top ten grid slot.

Qualifying:
Geri went out almost last, but no-one wanted to be the leader so Geri simply drove past nearly everyone on the out lap. He got up to speed quickly, posting his best lap of the weekend, a 21.2, on the second lap. Slowly the other drivers managed to improve on this time drpping Geri out of the top ten. A couple of laps to go and Geri came up about second behind Chapman who had been running quickly all weekend and would be disappointed to be down in 8th at the time. This was a chance for a tow - as they crossed the start line with time for just two laps, Geri was firmly within towing distance. A fastest first sector was followed by a fastest second sector, and Geri was on the pace for a top 6 grid slot. Unfortunately Geri had gained massively over the lap on Chapman, he would have realised that his lap wasn't going to improve his grod slot, but Geri was on a quicker one. Whether tactically or not, Chapman slowed in teh final sector and although Geri went past him, the damage was done and Geri was unable to improve on his earlier time. So 13th in qualifying, disappointing but the best we had qualified all season. Geri was looking forwards to the race with the belief that a top ten finish was within reach.

Race 1:
Race 1 was late on Saturday afternoon in dry and pleasant conditions. A grid penalty hangover from Croft for Cameron Roberts meant that Geri would line up 12th. He seemed to get a good start although lost two places at Riches as Perez (who had been alongside Geri on the grid) and Hadfield came round on the inside. On the run down to Montreal Geri moved over towards the inside of the track to defend into the hairpin, as had most other drivers. Ahead, Chapman had been tipped into a spin which would start a chain reaction.

Geri had tucked in behind Hadfield who had been unable to avoid Chapman, being slowed more than expected meant Geri ran into the back of Hadfield causing light damage to the bonnet, but also Stacey ran into the back of Geri's left rear bumper causing a lot more damage, the bumper was hanging loose and rubbing against the rear tyre. After the race it could be seen that the rear crash structure was bent and would need replacing overnight. Roberts had run down the outside also passing Geri out of Montreal. The rear tyre was smoking enough now that smoke started to fill the car by Hamilton, and would slow Geri down the Bentley straight enough that Fagg could simply drive past. Geri was now down to 14th, not quite what we had hoped for.

Coming up to the end of the first lap, the safety car came out preventing any chance of trying to regain the place. There was just the one lap run behind the safety car, Geri was aware that Fagg had been caught napping at Croft and had been difficult to pass, so was hoping to get a good run out of Murray straight from the restart. This time Fagg was right with Hadfield and everyone got away evenly. Running towards Montreal, Fagg was already taking a defensive line into the hairpin ensuring Geri could not make a move. The cars were still all bunched up, Geri wasn't close enough at Agostini, he still seemed to be struggling for straight line speed with the rear bumper flapping loose, but Hadfield was struggling with his handling allowing Geri to catch right up by the Bomb Hole.

Geri was much faster through Coram and moving right up on Fagg's rear bumper just as Hadfield lost the back of his car and span right in front of Fagg. Fagg braked and managed to swerve round Hadfield but Geri had been unsighted and struck a glancing blow before being forced across the grass infield to Murrays. Geri's rear bumper was ripped off as he bounced across the grass, he rejoined in front of Fagg and cross the start line ahead before backing out and giving up the place, and also losing momentum in doing so. Geri would realise post race that as the alternative would have been an accident, he was entitled to keep the place even though he had short cut the chicane. So by Riches at the start of lap 4, Geri was back in 13th place behind Fagg.

Letting Fagg by cost Geri heavily, he would have been within a second of Perez had he continued, backing out lost a couple of seconds and then Fagg proceeded to defend for all his worth for the next couple of laps causing them to lose 3 seconds a lap to the cars ahead. With the back bumper now gone, Geri was getting a tow down the straight and closed right up on Fagg, but a defensive line through the Bomb Hole and Coram meant Geri could not get past. Lap 5 and Geri was running out of time to make a move, a better run out Murray saw Geri pulling alongside Fagg as they turned into Riches, but Geri was hung out on the outside and had to drop back in behind. Chasing all round the circuit, Geri came out of Williams faster and pulled out of the slip stream as he changed into 6th gear. Once again, Geri could get alongside Fagg, but was on the outside and could not make the pass.

Last lap, another good run out of Murray saw Geri pull alongside Fagg coming up to Riches. This time Geri kept on going and tried to go round the outside before finding there wasn't enough grip on the outside of Riches. Fagg went ultra-defensive into Montreal, but there was a yellow flag being waved anyway for a car parked off track past the corner. Out of Palmer and Geri was right on Fagg's bumper, Fagg moving from side to side to defend on the run to Agostini. They were all but touching coming out, as Fagg went defensive into Oggies, Geri went deep outside him, turned back sharply and cut inside Fagg. Geri now had the inside line to Williams by which time he was already ahead. As Geri raced down the Bentley straight for the last time, Cameron Roberts was pulling over to the side of the circuit, promoting Geri to 11th. Alas, he had taken so long to get past Fagg that 10th placed Perez was 7 seconds further ahead.

Elite Motorsport had a busy evening repairing the damage to Geri's car, fitting a new rear crash structure and rear bumper, new dampers and straigtening the rear chassis as best as. But we finished with our best result since race 2 at Brands Hatch knowing that with a bit of luck, it could have been better still. After the race Geri said “I know now I shouldn’t have given the place back, and I’m sure I could have made up another couple of places. But with a good start in race 2 I believe the top 10 placing can be there”. Race 2:
Sunday afternoon, Geri lined up on the grid in 11th place as per his finishing position from race 1. A good start, right on Proctor’s bumper saw Geri round Riches in 10th place. Up front approaching Montreal, Caroline had already reached 2nd behind Monger from 6th on the grid, Matthiessen turned across Day and started a chain of events that spun both of them round ensuring everyone else behind Caroline had to brake/take avoiding action. Stacey and Grady were most affected, Stacey parking up on the outfield while Grady was spun round and rejoined in last 6 place. Unlike in race 1, Geri managed to keep tight inside Day and get through Montreal before Matthiessen spun back onto the track. On the run down to Palmer, he was in a four car battle for fourth place with Lewis Brown a bonnet length in front of Caroline (who had the inside line) and Zelos just alongside Geri’s rear wheel. So up to 6th temporarily but on the outside of the corner, ahead were Monger, Proctor and Tregurtha, the latter pair benefitting most in the second corner melee.

Caroline passed Brown, Geri came down towards Agostini drawing alongside Brown and right on Caroline’s bumper, but locked up allowing Zelos through on the inside. Immediately behind Perez locked up having already damaged his bonnet at Montreal running into Green and Hornby who were both right on Geri’s rear at the time. Two corners in a row where Geri’s luck held! Hadfield now made it through as the next car behind Geri who was now in 7th place. Zelos found a way inside Brown between Oggies and Williams, Geri was closing right up on Brown. The front four had broken clear, the next four (Zelos, Brown, Geri and Hadfield) were nose to tail coming out of Nelson. Geri tried to take Brown round Coram but Hadfield took advantage and passed both of them, Geri ending the first lap in 8th place. Fagg had taken the chance to close right up on Geri into Murray.

Zelos was slowing pulling clear of Hadfield, the front four seemed long gone already. On lap 2 Caroline dived inside Proctor at the end of Bentley straight, but already was some way behind Monger. Hadfield had taken a knock in the first lap incident, this looked to be slowing him as he was now holding up Brown and Geri, Zelos completely getting away.

Lap 3, Brown got past Hadfield, now Geri was right in his mirrors. On the run down to Agostini, Geri dived inside just while ITV4 running their camera in Hadfield’s car were showing the onboard footage, this capyuring the overtake spectacularly. Geri drove out of Agostini with Hadfield glued to his bumper and survived a big oversteer moment at Hamilton. Crossing the line at the end of lap 3, the half way point of the race, Geri was now moving closer to Brown (just 6/10ths behind) and further forwards (6/10th) from Hadfield. Monger led Caroline but 0.9, Geri was 9 seconds behind Caroline at this point.

Proctor repassed Caroline out of Oggies on lap 4, Zelos had now closed right up on Tregurtha with a big gap back to Brown and Geri. Caroline regained 2nd at the end of Bentley, but took a lot of grass on the exit from Nelson. Zelos passed Tregurtha down the straight, all this squabbling up front was allowing Brown and Geri to close up a little.

At the end of lap 4, Monger was 4 seconds clear – the next 4 cars were separated by just 0.6 seconds, Brown was 6 seconds further back, and just 6/10ths ahead of Geri. They were gaining on the front running pack. Caroline lost three places at Montreal on lap 5 – it would transpire post race he had a puncture – and his car was getting somewhat liberal with track limits which earned him the driving standards flag. One more transgression and there would be a time penalty – Geri was getting closer, could he get close enough?

Caroline went back to 4th at Agostini, as they crossed the line at the end of lap 5, Proctor and Zelos were a tenth apart, Caroline (now obviously struggling) and Tregurtha 2 tenths apart but a second behind the battle for second place. Geri had gained slightly on Brown and was now within 5 seconds of Caroline. This became very relevant at Caroline was given a 5 second penalty on the final lap, if Geri could stay within 5 seconds of him, he would be classified ahead.

Final lap, Tregurtha made a move on Caroline at the end of the Bentley straight, they came together and Caroline speared across the infield grass coming back on track a bit ahead of his challenger. The loss of time narrowed the gap to Geri down to 2.6 seconds, so Geri was classified in 6th place, his best of the season. Better was to come, in the excitement we had missed the lack of rookies up front with only Tregurtha finishing ahead of Geri, so Geri’s first silverware of the season.

The better points haul lifts Geri one place up to 15th, but only 3 points shy of 13th – the bigger gap is between 12th and 11th, so we will need a good haul in the final 8 races to close in on the top ten.

“We’ve known all season if we get the breaks, we can get the results. Now we have shown it, and look forwards to pushing on from here”. The result moves Nicosia up to 15th in the championship, but within easy reach of 12th.

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

Next time out is Knockhill on 22/23 August

Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.

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