Snetterton 30-31 July 2016 - Ginetta Junior
Frustration at having fallen away from 5th placed Harper at Croft was tempered by Snetterton having previously been a successful track for Geri with both a podium (and Rookie Champion) in the 2014 Winter Series, and a rookie podium in this round last year. On the down side, the official test day at Snetterton on 28 June, timings were inconclusive - although Geri had finished 8th overall and always 7th or 8th in each of the three morning sessions, and 12th in the afternoon, (9th and 10th in the two sessions), it was believed that a number of drivers were setting their best times on unrepresentative tyres. See the full timings here.
We also took part in a test day at Snetterton the previous Friday, but barely got a clear lap in due to sharing with a number of historic cars. While it was fun for Geri to be overtaking the likes of Jaguar XK120, Astom Martin DB2/4 - and not so much fun being pushed off the track by a TR6 taken by surprise by Geri's closing speed through Riches, it was not very productive.
All pictures on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography
Friday Free Practice 1:
And in a way Friday would prove no more informative, some drivers were setting times that were almost incredulous, some expected to be quick didn't look so quick. In the first session Geri was placed 10th, a second adrift of Tregurtha and Brown, but with Gamble matching their times, was he really that quick? Who could tell - and what about Middleton down in 14th? Geri had certainly started as he would have hoped to carry on - with the team being split up by slow noise testing, Geri found himslef on track with Harper and Middleton. On his second lap he went straight to the top of the chart, and was looking faster still the following lap following a purple first sector. But as Harper and Middleton backed out, Geri backed out along the Bentley straight when an improvement on his previous lap may have been possible. Throughout the rest of the session, Geri failed to pick up a tow and was unable to improve on his early time, falling back to 10th by the end of the session. The front five all set their best times on their final lap
Friday Free Practice 2:
Much the same in the afternoon session as Geri was quick out of the blocks and straight to the top of the board, but with a slow lap that was not helped by following Day and Grady round a little too closely. This time was not quick enough to even stay in the top ten, and Geri fell back to 12th place, unhappy that he had not been able to pick up a decent tow again.
See all the times from Friday Free Practice here.
Following a by now familiar patter in morning free practice, Geri was straight to the top of the board once again, and although his time was quickly overhaled, he finally got a decent tow on lap 4 which temporarily moved Geri back up to 4th, before the lap was taken away (track limits) a couple of laps later. Once again, Geri failed to pick up a decent tow through the rest of the session and finished a disppointing 15th and almost a second off the pace - the lap he lost would have placed him 6th which would have been a bit more respectable - it is a while since Geri lost times through track limits.
Qualifying looked like being a complete disaster, to be fair it is poor qualifying that has almost certainly cost Geri some podium positions already this season, some through bad luck, some through lack of tow. As the JHR cars lined up in the assembly area with Geri second of them, they were behind the HHC cars. It seemed reasonable to follow them round on the outlap, Geri's team mate giving him a tow to the start line where he would move over and get towed by the HHC cars - with Snetterton being such a long lap, and the 15 minutes for qualifying unchanged, there would only be 6 or 7 laps available to any driver. No time for messing about, dropping back looking for a tow and the like.
The plan fell apart when Briown and Tregurtha broke clear and then Digby and Fagg fell back. Rather than chase after them, Geri's team mate slowed right up round Coram in the hope of being overtaken - but with Digby being 4 seconds off the pace at this round (his first), he would not be towing anyone. It was plain to Geri that he was getting no help so launched past his team mate into free air in an attempt to set a time. There followed attempts to get the JHR cars back to the same part of the track, but they kep meeting slow moving traffic. Four laps in, Geri was sitting 19th and fully 3 seconds shy of where he should have been.
Finally Geri found some clear track, Digy was a few seconds up the road as Geri overtook Grady through Coram and set about a time. Two good sectors looked promising, of course they were green given what had gone before, but they were on the pace. But Geri's cruel luck intervened again, he caught Digby as they turned left into the Esses and was right on his bumper. Geri tapped Digby at the Bomb Hole and was alongside the sign for Coram before he was able to get past. A measure of how badly slowed Geri was is shown that his final sector was only 15th fastest of the drivers' best, while Digby's best was over a second slower. Charitably if we said Geri lost 1/4 second, that would have been the difference between qualifying 9th (as we did) and 5th! It was probably more.
So Geri lined up 9th on the grid, alongside Gamble, and behind Tregurtha, Brown, King, Harper, Wooder, Perez, Fittipaldi and Middleton. We had hoped for a good start down the inside but Geri got blocked in going into Riches and made no headway, following Middleton down towards the newly renamed Wilson. Suddenly Middleton speared right, across the grass looking to pass cars down the inside before coming back on track and pushing Geri out wide which cost him two places to Hornby and Gamble. Geri was 3 abreast with gamble and Middleton heading towards Palmer, Gamble had to back out being the car in the middle, Middleton's outside line letting him stay ahead of Geri taking a tighter line.
Tregurtha was making a break at the front, but Geri was at the back of a 9 car train giving chase an climbing all over Middleton's rear bumper through the corners. Coming out of Murray at the end of the first lap there was barely the proverbial cigarette paper between Hornby, Middleton and Geri. 4/10ths covering the three cars.
Middleton dived inside Hornby going into Riches, Geri followed him through into 9th place, back where he started. Hornby tried to go round the outside at Wilson, but Geri held him off. The front 7 had now broken clear of Middleton, who was frantically waving at Geri to work with him chasing them back down. Geri was plainly faster than Middleton, it was just a matter of where could he pass - Geri tried to cut back inside at Agostini, but wasn't quite quick enough. Middleton was looking ragged, Geri was faster down the Bentley straight and pulled alongside, but on the outside, so Middleton once again held off the challenge.
Running wide through Coram, Middleton moved across late to defend and the two cars touched corner to corner. Still 9th as they crossed the line, but Geri took a wide entry into Riches and cut back in tight just as Middleton moved across right to the second apex - too late, this time Geri had enough car there to run up the inside and pass going into Wilson. Geri was now 3 seconds adrift of 7th placed Fittipaldi who was battling for 5th with Brown and Perez.
At the end of lap 4, Geri was still 2.6 behind Fittipaldi, Hornby has also managed to pass Middleton and was right behind Geri, but the two JHR cars were working together. It paid dividends, Lap 5, the fastest three cars on track were Geri, Hornby and Middleton as they pulled back a second on Fittipaldi. Geri was just entering Murray as Brown, Perez and Fittipaldi were going through, bumper to bumper. Now just 1.55 seconds behind but only 2 laps left.
The three cars in front were squabbling over 5th place, Perez and Fittipaldi were moving from side to side trying to find a way past, while Brown leading the pack was almost white-lining in defence. Geri caught the three cars going into Wilson, The battle for 5th was now a 6 car one with Hornby and Middleton still close behind Geri.
Coming out of Agostini, geri was almost touching Fittipaldi's rear bumper, he in turn was as close to Perez, while Brown had eked out a car's length comfort zone. Coming out of Hamilton, Fittipaldi's car suddenly swung round right in front of Geri, as he exited across the infield. Geri was up to 7th, 5th was still a possibility. It was late in the race now, no thoughts of working with Perez to chase Brown, who was finally, slowly pulling away. This was every man for himself.
One lap to go, Brown, Perez, Geri, Hornby and Middleton all equally spaced, all 4/10ths apart. It was bumper to bumper at Wilson, someone would have to make a move, surely. Geri went to make a move inside at Agostini but Perez moved left to cover it off, Geri went outside hoping to pull off his once trademark cut back move. But Hornby went inside too, leaving Geri no choice but to brave it out round the outside. Predictably, that didn't go well, Geri had to back out exiting Agostini or run off the track, Hornby had pulled level with Perez and had the inside for Hamilton. Exactly what Geri had planned to do.
Geri now had Middleton's full atention so had to go defensive through Williams. It looked like Geri could hold him off down Bently straight, but just as Geri braked and moved inside for the left turn, Middleton let off the brakes and went round the outside, somehow still stopping the car for the Esses. A great move.
Two places lost in about a third of a lap, while challenging for a place further forwards. Geri wasn't giving up, he was all over Middleton through the Bomb Hole and Coram, as they came into Murray Middleton took a lot of kerb, Geri took a cleaner line through. Could he outdrag Middleton to the line? Middleton forced Geri outside, but he had the pace and driove alongside, passing Middleton cleanly before the line for 8th place.
More drama for Geri, TSL showed that Middleton had beaten Geri by 15/100ths - unless his transponder was thirty feet in front of his car, that wasn't possile. Video footage was studied, TSL were consulted, and rightly, in an amended results, Geri was awarded 8th place with Middleton 9th. Up front, Harper had won the race from Wooder and Tregurtha with Harry King setting his season's nest 4th place for Elite Motorsport. Not the result we had hoped for, but getting past Middleton twice in a race had to bring some comfort, just a shame we weren't battling for the lead.
Eighth in race 1 meant an outside grid position on row four for race 2 - so at least Geri couldn't complain about being boxed in. Ahead were Harper, Wooder, Tregurtha, King, Brown, Hornby and Perez with Middleton and Gamble on the row behind. Geri got a good enough start and seemed to have passed Perez and Hornby before Riches, but there was less grip on the outside and he wasn't able to make the move stick.
Through the infield they ran, Geri climbing all over Brown and looking to have left Middleton in his wake.
The train raced to the end of Bentley straight where Hornby was fired across the infield, rejoining after the Bomb Hole in 2nd place. Middleton got past Geri coming into Murray, while Perez was eased off leaving the first lap order Tregurtha (already looking like the race was won, over a second clear), Hornby, Wooder, Harper, King, Brown, Middleton and Geri with Priaulx, Gamble, Fagg and Fittipaldi close behind.
On lap 2, Harper and King both got by Hornby and Wooder was closing in on him. Middleton in seventh was a second back from sixth placed Brown while Geri was 2/10ths behind Middleton, desperately trying to find a way past. Already the front eight had broken clear, ninth placed Grady was 2.3 behind Geri.
Harper had caught up with Tregurtha, Middleton was slowly losing ground on 6th while Geri was sat behind him. On lap 4, Harper and Tregurtha came together between Wilson and Palmer in a move that would have post-race repurcussions. The front 4, Harper, Tregurtha, King and Wooder were separated by 7/10ths, the next 4, Brown, Hornby, Middleton and Geri were separated by 9/10ths, with 5th placed Brown nearly 1.5 behind Wooder.
Geri lost a couple of tenths to Middleton on lap 5, but pulled them back on lap 6, so still less than 3/10ths off 7th, while Brown and Hornby were slowly easing clear of Middleton. Final lap, Geri made up half the gap and closed right up at Murray but could not repeat his race to the line victory as Middleton hugged the wall all the way to the line.
So two eighth places at a track where we hoped to do well. The pace was there, the starting position once again was not. In post race judicials, Harper was penalised for his move on Tregurtha which demoted him to third and gave Harry King and Elite their first win - big congratulations to them.
From a championship perspective, Harper pulled a little further away from Geri, although 9 penalty points helps cut that advantage. All the drivers close behind Geri scored less points than he did, so we are still in 6th place, a few too many behind 5th for our liking, and equally not far enough in front of 7th placed Priaulx for comfort. There are still eleven races to go, with the next three rounds all being triple headers, it is important we start qualifying better and try to bag a big haul of points.
See the full timing details from TSL here
Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.
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