Knockhill 22/23 August 2015 - Ginetta Junior

Ginetta Junior:
406 miles each way to Knockhill, with test sessions having been laid on separately for the Wednesday day time and the Wednesday evening, we had to spend the week up at the circuit. Seven hours after setting off on Tuesday morning, we arrived at the circuit, tripped over the very outer paddock where we were to be situated to find that only Ben Green and his father had arrived before us, but we were the first motorhome to arrive. Parking up in a good position for easy egress on Sunday, that was our first victory of the weekend. Oh, and it started raining as soon as we got there - well, it is Scotland.

Wednesday testing. Despite the rain which had greeted us on our arrival Tuesday afternoon, the track was dry and the weather bordering on sunny. There were three 55 minute sessions booked during the day, preceded by a 30 minute session first thing in the morning. Chris was out with another of his drivers so we sent Geri out late in the session purely to set up the sectors on the lap display, he got just 2 laps in before the session ended. After a few laps with Chris to see the circuit, Geri got in about 15 minutes on his own before Chris jumped back in again. A couple of laps in, Geri took too much speed through Scotsman and spun leaving the car with the nose in the gravel and the rear on the track. Not wanting to reverse into oncoming traffic, Geri waited but then Zelos and Perez came over the brow together, Zelos just missed Geri, the unsighted Perez had no chance to avoid. The session was red flagged, thankfully the drivers (and Chris) uninjured.

Both cars came back on the flatbed together, Geriís car having taken a hit to the passenger rear quarter, a bad gash in the fibreglass body will need a more permanent repair after the weekend. Suspension parts were scrounged (thanks to JHR Developments), unable to find a new rear anti-roll bar the team were forced to straighten the existing one which had also been damaged. Sterling work on their behalf saw Geri just miss 40 minutes of the next session, he was able to get out for the last 15 in order to check the car drove as well as it could be hoped.

Final session and Chris stepped in with Geri for a quick check that he was happy before Geri completed all running himself. The team were happy with his progress, but Geri was tiring so called it a day with 10 minutes left

We had also booked another 2 hours open pit lane session for the evening. Back out again at 6pm, and all had changed. Rain had been falling for a couple of hours, the track was soaking wet and a mix of cars from Ginetta G55, down to a couple of race Fiestas and even a road going VW Golf were out on track with the juniors. Geri had an early session with Chris to discuss wet running and then we left him out on his own. A number of the drivers were spinning, mostly coming out of the Scotsman or the Chicace. There was a red flag late on when Bird got beached in the gravel at Scotsman, this was the point Geri retired for the evening satisfied he was going as well as he would be able, and seemingly close to the ultimate pace. Shortly after, Perez beached in the same place but was able to get back out.

Thursday was a rest day as we watched the BTCC teams arrive and assemble there paddock bases, something we normally miss out on by arriving late Thursday evening. The team were not so lucky, they still had to complete assembly of their paddock base and check over Geriís car ready for the morning and await the arrival of the Ginetta spares truck.

Friday and all was bright again with intermittent clouds. The track had remained dry all morning but as the Ginettas lined up for the first session at 12:20, there were spots of rain in the air. These didnít affect the lap times though. Geri was running comfortably mid-pack, still up in 12th after 15 minutes was up (the length of a qualifying session) but fell back to 15th by the end of the session. There was very light rain for the last couple of laps, but not enough to affect the times. Looking back at the sector information, we could see that Geri was 6th fastest through the final sector but 4th slowest through the second sector. To be fair, Geri himself was well aware where he was losing time, and with another 30 minutes to come plus free practice tomorrow, there was time to work at this.

For the afternoon session, the weather was still playing. The session before with the Clios was interrupted by heavy showers, but by the time the Ginettas went out at 16:10, it was dry again. We had made some adjustments to Geri's car, the rear was too loose in the first session. Geri was not really getting on with it for the first few laps, and then Hadfield beached in the gravel at Clarks causing a red flag.

Geri showed a little more urgency after the restart, setting quicker laps but still in last place before finally getting on. He dropped his lap time by 2/10ths from the earlier session, but the track seemed quicker as most drivers were able to improve. We were getting closer though, the gap to pole in the first session was almost 9/10ths, now it was just 7/10ths but still in 16th place, an eighth of a second would have seen us 12th it was so close out there. We knew where Geri was losing some of the time, so hoped he could find some more in time for qualifying.

See the Friday test results here.

Free practice:
Geri was disappointed to fall back to a second off pole even though he was fractionally quicker than yesterday on the new tyres, as he had been for yesterday's run. Scotsman was still a problem and where we were losing speed, along with the Chicane. Geri was still good through the final sector, but losing too much time before that.

Saturday qualifying, we thought it might rain as spots started to fall in the previous session, but the weather at Knockhill just couldn't make up its mind. We got back to within .7 or so off pole after a restarted session, the red flag being caused by Hornby beaching at Scotsman. This cost him heavily as the track got faster and he fell to 17th with Geri dipping into the 62s three times late in the session, but still only good enough for 15th.

Race 1:
Good fortune at the start for Geri if not for Middleton who came to a halt on the formation lap just before the chicane with electrical failure, and Monger who broke a driveshaft on the start line, so two places gained before Geri had barely moved. He got a decent enough start but Bird moved over to avoid the stricken Monger then sat in front of Geri before moving back left, this allowed Tregurtha to pull alongside on the approach to Duffus Dip. Down towards Scotsman and Tregurtha was still alongside, Geri right on Bird's bumper, but Geri had the inside line and Tregurtha tucked in behind. Bird was cautious on the run to the Hairpin, Geri moved out to try and cutback which let Hornby come through, Geri ending lap one in 14th place. Bailey was also out of the race with a broken driveshaft, parking up just after the finish line.

Coming towards the Hairpin on lap 2, Geri was climbing all over Hornby. Just in front Fagg pulled outside to make an (unsuccessful) move on Bird, as they got close, Geri tried the same on Hornby only to let Tregurtha through. Back to 15th by the end of lap 3. Geri was faster than Tregurtha on the run to Duffus and down to the Scotsman, having to back out as Tregurtha covered him off, and was unable to capitalise as Tregurtha ran into the gravel al Scotsman.

Geri lost ground to Tregurtha on lap 4, while ahead, Fagg, Hornby and Bird had opened up a gap. Geri came into the Hairpin leaving just enough of a gap for Wooder to push through, Perez didn't wait for a second invitation to follow right on his bumper preventing Geri from moving across to cover, Perez also passing Wooder before they crossed the line. Down to 17th with Connor Grady, the last remaining runner, right on his bumper.

It all closed up at the hairpin, just 2.5 seconds covering Hornby in 11th, Fagg, Tregurtha, Bird, Wooder, Perez, Geri and Grady. Next time round it was all shuffled, Wooder went down the outside while Hornby, Fagg, Tregurtha and Bird stayed tight to the inside and the Hairpin. Perez was hung outside and Geri dived inside to latch on behind Bird. Wooder ended up out on the grass as everyone repassed him, Geri tucked in on Bird and outdragged Perez up the hill to retake 15th place just after the finish line on the start of lap 8. Bird's bonnet had been damaged, this would slow his car, but still managed to get right on the tail of the Hornby, Fagg, Tregurtha train as they braked for the Hairpin. Suddenly it was three abreast as Perez shot down outside Geri, with Grady running outside Perez, but Geri managed to hold on to his place.

Geri was now sat 5th in the 7 car nose to tail train of cars, Bird was moving sideways all over the place to prevent Geri from passing. At the end of lap 8, Grady came flying down the outside at the Hairpin making up places. Tregurtha ran into Fagg spinning him round and out of the race, and causing Geri to hit Bird as he tried to avoid Fagg breaking the bonnet pins. The bonnet remained only just ajar until coming down to Clark's when it suddenly lifted as something in the front structure cried enough, with vision now being blocked Geri would be a sitting duck for Wooder and Perez.

Wooder shot past Geri at Leslie's, Geri completely unable to see the track at that point, which was follwed by a lap under full course yellow. Three laps to go, try and he would, Geri could not hold off Perez, Perez making his move at Scotsman. Geri tried but finished the race in 17th place, less than a second behind Perez - a lot of work to do in race 2.

Race 2:
All the forecasts had insisted that the Sunday race would be a wet one, so imagine our surprise to find bright sunshine and barely a cloud about. We had been hoping for rain given that Geri had looked good in the wet Wednesday evening session. The cars were sent out for their formation lap while carnage from the previous MSA Formula race was being cleared away. Somehow on that lap we lost Roberts, and De Francesco's car seemed to sustain damage, his team working frantically on the grid to repair. Also missing from the grid was Wooder who was supposed to start directly in front of Geri, so a chance of a gap there for Geri.

Perez on the row in front moved across to the gap left by Wooder to defend from Geri, but Geri had got a good start and simply moved right to the edge of the track and kept his foot in to gain the place. But Fagg has started faster still and came by Geri at Duffus. At the front, Caroline had not pulled awat from pole position, when he did get moving he slid at the inside of Leslie's, went across the track collecting De Franceso on the way, before a double contact with Tregurtha left him pointing the wrong way on the outside of the track at Scotsman. Geri managed to get through unscathed, joining right behind Tregurtha, Grady had taken very wide on the grass to avoid the incident losing places. Tregurtha's bonnet had been damaged in the incident with Caroline, this was slowing him out of Hislop's and Geri was all over him, having to back out to avoid shoving him straight across the Hairpin. This allowed Monger to come down the outside and slot back in between Tregurtha and Geri. Monger then outdragged Tregurtha up the hill, Geri went left and tucked in behind him ending the first lap 13th but taking 12th from Tregurtha straight after the line.

By Scotsman there was now a train of cars in front of Geri comprising De Francesco, Hornby, Mathiessen, Green, Fagg and Monger, with Middleton catching up fast from behind. Geri was content at this point to stay with Monger and follow him through the pack. Monger ran down the outside at the Hairpin cutting back and leaving Fagg to cut the corner on the inside, Geri followed him straight through taking a hit on the rear offside as Fagg came back on track. The front five had pulled out a gap, then it was De Francesco, Hornby, Mathiessen, Green, Monger and Geri in 11th all running close together.

Matthiessen passed Hornby at the Hairpin, across the line there were just 1.6 seconds separating De Francesco in 6th and Middleton (behind Geri) in 12th. De Francesco got into trouble at Leslie's before running across the track and across the infield bypassing Scotsman, causing the other cars to bunch up even closer. Hornby was out wide, Matthiessen tight to the inside kerb with Monger right on him. Geri went through behind Monger only to be collected by Hornby who turned in tight as De Francesco was almost stationery on track. Hornby got knocked back outside De Francesco and was able to continue apace - Geri was dealt a glancing blow which spun him round onto the infield wet grass and almost sideways into the tyre wall. By the time he had reversed back onto the track and spun round again, he was now 21 seconds behind Hornby, and 17 seconds behind the next car of Grady. See the video of the incident here.

With his race effectively over, Geri took to entertaining the crowd with some lurid slides round Scotsman and the Hairpin, but was also posting much faster lap times than the cars in front. By the end of the race he had reduced the deficit to 16th place to 7 seconds. So a long week for just 2 17th places in the end. Championship-wise, Geri has moved up from 15th to 13th by virtue of neither Stacey or Day attending this round, but his 8 points for the weekend means he is now 48 points adrift of 12th placed Chapman who's 38 point haul pulls him well clear of Geri. With 3 weekends to go, we shall need some good results and much better luck if we are going to make any impression on that.

Full details of the weekend from TSL can be seen here.

Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.

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