Knockhill 25/26 August 2018 - Ginetta GT5 Challenge
We needed to get the title challenge back on track, but with Geri having won both races at Knockhill last year, there was some optimism that a repeat may be possible. We started out with a test day on the Tuesday, where both the Ginetta Junior and GT5 Challenge cars would run together. There had been some testing on Monday but we were not part of that.
All pictures on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography
It became apparent straight away that the resurfaced track was much quicker than it was last year. The downside of the test was there was only 7 GT5 cars present, and while Stoney and Digby were out, Kellett wasn't. We ran on old test tyres but grip was good. The first 3 or 4 laps were slow before the first of the red flags came out, after this Geri started to push and had gone below his old lap record within 3 laps. A second red flag after 16 laps saw Geri come back out on a mission, after posting a 57.0 lap, he then broke into the 56s, finally posting 56.610 24 laps into the session. This would be enough to top the session with Digby second on 57.015 and Stoney back in 5th on 57.4.
Session two saw Geri struggling to get a clear lap, and Stoney post 56.686 before light rain started to fall. There were two more red flags during the session, as the session was ending Geri finally moved up to second place on 57.070 on a track with light drizzle. We felf sure we were still competitive, so were not overly worried about not topping the session.
Session 3 and all dry again, after a first lap red flag Geri swapped over to a new pair of tyres on the left side to see what difference would be made - this is how we would be running come race weekend. The surprise was very little and it took 24 laps for Geri to finally post a 56.434 at the end of a string of 56s. Stoney was still the only other driver to break into the 56s, but 0.2 behind Geri. Late in the ession Geri had a small off at Clarks landing heavily in the gravel before driving out and back to the pits. We did not notice straight away, but in this, Geri's transponder came off the car so the final two sessions were done without transponder.
Session 4, while the charts show Stoney was quickest on 57.161, we know from the onboard data that Geri went lower but not into the 56s, it seemed on the whole the track was getting slower. Session 5 foillowed with Digby finally becoming the 3rd driver to post a 56, with 56.791 and while Geri's data showed he managed 56.8, we would not have topped this session. Overall though we were fairly confident we would have good race pace.
See all the times from Tuesday here.
There would be two test sessions on the Friday for the GT5 cars only, so no Junior cars to trip over, but a more crowded track with 24 cars present, a few less than we have managed for most races this weekend. The track took a long time to come in, Kellett finally breaking into the 56s on lap 17, it took Geri a few more laps to do the same. Kellett finally lowered the mark to 56.2 while Geri couldn't get lower than 56.7 and found himself back in 5th place as everyone else seemed faster than on Tuesday.
The second session didn't go much better for Geri who finished back in 9th place and 0.4 adrift of Kellett. We were at a loss to understand what had changed, but we couldn't seem to match our Tuesday form any more.
See all the times from Friday here.
Qualifying - Saturday
We were hopeful that at least qualifying would go better than the Friday. Geri seemed to have the pace to be near the front of the grid, but on a very tight track was having no luck with traffic and multiple yellow flags. It took 5 laps go get down to 57.005, a time Geri would match exactly 7 laps later, but this was already 3/4s off pole and was followed by a red flag.
The cars made it out for a further 4 laps, Geri had been 7th at the point of stopping the session and despite multiple yellow flags showing for the remainder of the session, fell to 12th as he respected the flags more than some other drivers - who then went unpenalised despite it being obvious from the timing. Kellett was on pole with another 56.2, Geri felt he had at least second row pace if he'd got in a clear lap. As it was we would be starting behind Kellett, Digby, Declan Jones (guesting from Supercup), Bird, O'Brien, Stoney, Toth-Jones, Dyrdal, Mutch, Rainbow and Milner!
Race 1 - Saturday
Geri got off to a typical flying start, dumping Milner off the line and passing both Mutch and Dyrdal before he had reached Seat Curves, and tucked in behind Rainbow on the run to Scotsman. Geri got alongside Rainbow at the Hairpin and tried to go round the outside, but that didn't work. But we had gained 3 places on the first lap.
Lap 2 was spent chasing Rainbow, but the pair were gaining on Toth-Jones. Rainbow passed Toth-Jones at the Seat Curves, Geri sent it down the inside at Scotsman to move up to 8th place, but by the end of lap 3 had lost ground to Rainbow. Geri gave chase but it wasn't until lap 6 that he closed right up on Rainbow, who in turn closed up on Digby and Stoney at Scotsman, Geri getting the better run and diving inside Rainbow at Clarks, with Toth-Jones following through shortly after. Connor O'Brien had been running fourth, but a spin at Seat Curves on lap 6 dropped him out of contention, and with Geri having passed Rainbow, he was now up to 6th place,
Sixth would be short-lived, Toth-Jones came flying past on the entrance to Seat Curves pushing Geri back to 7th place. as they came over the Chicane they could see Konczos stranded in the gravel trap at Clark and sure enough, as they completed the lap, so the safety car was deployed.
There were three laps behind the safety car before racing resumed, the order - with cars all scrunched up - was Kellett, Jones, Bird, Stoney, Digby, Toth-Jones and Geri. Digby, Toth-Jones and Geri were now the battle for 5th place, 4th placed Stoney had broken a couple of seconds clear by now. Geri closed right up on Toth-Jones on lap 13, drawing slightly ahead but on the outside approaching the hairpin, before cutting back inside and crossing the line just ahead. Toth-Jones pulled a nose ahead at the top of the brow but had to give way to Geri at Seat Curves, Geri finally had the place back.
Now to chase down Digby, Geri closed right up over the Chicane, and Digby lost grip at Clark, Geri getting the better drive out and moving up to 5th place, with Toth-Jones following - but now 4.5 seconds behind 4th placed Stoney. Geri was still having to defend from Toth-Jones who nearly got by at Scotsman, Geri just covering the move inside at the last moment. But defending from Toth-Jones meant they were losing ground on Stoney, and by the time Stoney passed Bird on lap 15, Geri was almost 6 seconds adrift of 4th place.
All change as up front Kellett and Jones came together, resulting in a synchronised 360 degree spin dropping them to 4th and 3rd respectively, Stoney was now leading. Further round the track, Dyrdal was beached at Clarks causing another safety car period and a chance for Geri to close up on Bird. There were 5 laps under the safety car and even though the race length was amended from 20 to 22 laps, this led to the race being completed as a one lap sprint to the finish.
Try as he might, Geri could not make any further ground finishing the race 5th behind Stoney, Bird, Jones and Kellett - we would later find that as a guest racer, Jones was not eligible for points so Geri got the points for 4th place. After the race Jones was deemed at fault for the incident with Kellett and their places reversed.
More points lost to Kellett and even more to Stoney, although we were looking fairly safe in 3rd, the gap ahead was ever increasing.
Race 2 - Sunday
Sunday was a whole new ball game, heavy rain had fallen all through the night and this was going to be a very wet race. Geri would be lining up 5th on the grid behind Stoney, Bird, Kellett and Jones with Toth-Jones alongside.
While Toth-Jones appeared to be moving slowly while the lights were still on, Geri did get the better start, but ahead Jones moved across to cover off the inside before diving ahead of Bird before Scotsman. It was behind Geri that it all kicked off with a multi-car accident coming out of Scotsman leaving broken cars everywhere and Connor Grady's car sideways with the front smashed off. It seemd an age before the red flags came out, in fact the front drivers rounded the hairpin before racing up the hill where they suddenly braked to park on the hill as the race was stopped.
After what seemd an age, the race was ready to restart, with all drivers thankfully unhurt - the same could not be said for some of the cars, with six cars unable to make the restart.
Another start, again Toth-Jones appeared to be moving with the lights on, but it looked like Geri got away OK while ahead this time Jones got past Bird. At Seat Curves Toth-Jones suddenly appeared stage left going very quickly and managed to come out ahead of Geri, so we were already back to 6th. But Geri was able to take the place back just after they ended the first lap after a better exit from the hairpin.
Geri was just about holding station with 4th placed drivers, Kellett then Bird but on lap 4 Nick Halstead went off and it was saftey car time again. Three safety car laps later and we were off again. There were 3 laps of clean running and then quelle surprise, another safety car session as we finally lost Rainbow who had already been given the meatball flag for a passenger door that kept swinging open, then came out of the pit lane directly in front of the leader Stoney, went off at Scotsman and then got in the way of the cars chasing Stoney at the chicane before finally parking up in the gravel after the hairpin!
With a race restart and long delay, and then two safety car sessions, the race was not going to run full length we breached the 25 minute barrier after just 15 of the scheduled 20 laps. On lap 14 Bird went inside Jones at the hairpin and came out in front, Jones running wide left allowing Geri to move up to 4th place. Bird would later be penalised for the move with points on his licence, but no time penalty that would help Geri move up! To be fair, the view from Geri's car suggested this was a little harsh - but at the end of the race Geri finished 4th behind Stoney, Kellett and Bird.
All in all, a slightly disappointing weekend with points dropped to Kellett, Stoney and Bird at a circuit where we thought we'd be strong. As we head to the final round at Donington Park in 4 weeks, Kellett is 92 points ahead of Geri, with Stoney 67 ahead and there are 109 points available in a triple header event. Bird sits 4th 85 behind us with Toth-Jones 5th and 95 behind us.
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See full timing details from TSL here.
See the full standings here.
Next time out is Donington Park on 22/23 September.