Knockhill 13/14 August 2016 - Ginetta Junior
The long trek up to Scotland turned into a week in Scotland for Geri as the JHR Developments team were testing on the preceding Monday, followed by the official Ginetta test day on the Wednesday.
Monday testing was just the JHR cars and Geri managed almost 100 laps of the circuit throughout the day, although 22 of these would have been in or out laps. The weather was mostly dry but cold, a couple of small showers were enough to use the wiper, but not enough to turn the track to a wet one. One feature of the day was that most of the drivers were pounding into the marker posts, much to the consternation of the track officials. Geri's bonnet was looking very second hand, with the nearside headlamp broken, and later modelling a fetching black eye patch, as were most of the JHR cars.
Wednesday was the official Ginetta test day, along with the drivers who would be racing at the weekend there were also Harry Dyson testing with JHR in readiness for his 14th birthday next month, and Elite brought along one of the Junior Saloons drivers taking the opportunity to learn the circuit ready for their next race.
The day was run as five sessions throughout the day, alternated with the GT4 Cup drivers. Four of the sessions were 40 minutes, the last one was for 30 minutes. After recent test days had turned unrepresentative due to teams running shaved tyres, GT5 diffs, illegal ECU maps etc. in order to psyche out the other drivers, Ginetta had called a team managers' meeting to put a stop to the silliness. From now on any times "should" be true.
The first two sessions were held in dry conditions, we were a bit concerned when Geri could only post 14th in session 1 and 0.9 seconds off the leader Middleton, and in a session broken by two red flags for drivers beached in the gravel, Geri's ended as the clock ran down, beached on the exit of the Hairpin, not as a result of an off. Geri's propshaft had bropken and he had no drive!
Optimism returned in session 2 with Geri placing 5th and just 0.24 off the lead. Once again the JHR team had excelled themselves by fitting a new propshaft in the downtime between sessions so Geri could get back out on track. Geri was down to 9th again in session 3 but had been running top 6 in the dry, a couple of red flags later the rain came and slowed the drivers, 11 of the 18 drivers posted their fastest lap on one of the first two laps.
There were another 3 red flags during the fourth session, Geri was back to 6th and it was now officially wet. Geri had an extra trip to the pitlane, in mid session following the spare Elite car, it spun right in front at Geri on the approach to the chicane, Geri went off the track to the outside to avoid, bypassing the chicane completely, but was caught a glancing blow by the Elite rear offside corner into Geri's door, so came in to check for damage.
A final wet session punctuated by red flags ended the day with Geri back in 9th and a long way adrift - we would be hoping for a less wet weekend after this session.
See all the Wednesday timing information here.
Friday testing would be two sessions, one in the morning, the other mid-afternoon. The morning session started out with a damp track from overnight rain, and then fine drizzle began to fall during the session. Geri placed 6th in the drier part of the session but later seemed to be third fastest in damp conditions.
All pictures on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography
Any optimism was taken away with the afternoon session where with a track that had now dried out, Geri could not get within half a second of his Wednesday best dry time and ended the session in 12th.
See all the Friday timing information here.
We sent Geri out to work with Cameron after Friday's testing showed they were comparable in speed and able to work together well. There had been rain overnight, but the track which had been wet at the start of the morning was now drying. It was plain that the fastest times would occur later during the session. Geri and Cam got up to speed straight away, although the first lap was scruffy with Cam getting sideways at the Duffus Dip - too much kerb - then Geri ran wide exiting the chicane which cause the time to be removed. But lap 2 was right on it, now Geri and Cam were P2 and P4. One more lap and the red flags came out - Lewis Brown had spun at the Hairpin and was beached on the inside. Sitting P2 we might have been hoping for the clock to carry on, but there was time in the schedule to stop it with 10 minutes still to go.
Three or four minutes later the cars went back out on track. Slowly Geri was falling down the leaderboard, a blip back up on lap 6 before slipping back again. But the clear lap came and now Geri was back up to 5th, our best of the season, with JHR team mates Priaulx and Perez ending the session P1 and P2, Cam P7 and Caldwell P11 after sitting inside the top ten most of the session. Finally the team were getting somewhere.
A decent start for Geri maintaining his 5th place, almost running into 4th placed Tregurtha at the Duffus Dip before the cars sat neatly in line again. On the run to the Hairpin, the cars bunched up and Geri attempted to run down the outside and make a move on Tregurtha- but it didn't work and Geri lost a place as Harper slotted inside. On lap 2, Geri went defensive at Scotsman as Wooder was right behind him, this allowed the cars in front to make a break. Priaulx was trying to hold off Middleton to keep 2nd, Harper was challenging Tregurtha for 4th, Perez out front was simply driving away, almost 3 seconds clear after 2 laps.
Lap 3, Wooder pulled one of his worldy moves going inside Geri at Scotsman, although there was a small clash on the exit which broke Geri's left side bonnet pin. Geri gave chase, ahead Perez was driving off into the distance while Priaulx and Middleton battled, Tregurtha and Harper battled and Geri had Connor Grady right on his bumper. The cars were closing up, seven of them almost bumper to bumper now.
By lap 7, it was an eight car train a long way behind Perez as Roberts joined the party passing Grady and moving up behind Geri. Geri was throwing everything at Wooder, regulary tapping him from behind, trying to run outside at the Hairpin, but still he couldn't get by. Harper was having similar problems trying to pass Tregurtha but Middleton had found a way by Priaulx. Perez was six seconds clear and enjoying the run to his maiden win.
At the Hairpin on lap 10 it all kicked off, Geri had been bum-drafting Wooder who stayed defensive. Tregurtha had been passed by Harper and was now taking a very wide sweep at the Hairpin. Wooder saw his chance and lunged inside, Tregurtha had to back out and swerve left to avoid a collision but Wooder couldn't hold the back end. As he swung back across the track, Geri dived inside while Tregurtha recovered to go outside, there were three abreast coming up the hill towards the start-finish line. Roberts followed Geri through reaching the line inches ahead of Wooder. The order was now Perez way out front, Middleton, Priaulx, with Harper a couple of seconds further back and a second ahead of Tregurtha, Geri, Roberts, Wooder and Grady all covered by 6/10ths.
On lap 11 Geri was bum-drafting Tregurtha to the Hairpin but lost a little time going through. Into the final lap, Geri caught back up again through Clark and was chasing hard down to the Hairpin. The move had to be now - Geri went outside and braked late, Tregurtha stayed tight and covered off the inside before running out, forcing Geri outside. Up the straight they raced to the finish, Geri gaining ground up the hill thanks to the wider entry. He was alongside by the pitlane entrance and passed Tregurtha shortly afterwards. TSL flashed up that Geri had reached the line first by 5/1000ths of a second before changing to show Tregurtha got there forst by 2/1000ths. A photo was produced that showed Tregurtha reached the line approx. 4 inches ahead of Geri, with Geri completing the pass after the line. So 6th place after a great battle - points gained on Wooder and Brown, but lost to Harper and Priaulx, Geri's closest competitors.
Photo courtesy Knockhill Circuit
The second race of the day taking place in the late afternoon, the final race of the day. Geri would start on the outside of the grid for this race, with Perez and Middleton on the front row, Priaulx and Harper next up, then Tregurtha and Geri, with Roberts and Grady behind.
A brilliant start saw Geri blast away from Tregurtha and also clear Priaulx, tucking in behind Harper and in 4th place as the cars reached the Duffus Dip. Tregurtha came steaming through at Clark's, Geri closing right up behind him again. Geri crossing the line in 5th. On lap 2, Tregurtha defended into the Hairpin while Middleton took a wide sweep in, resulting in him, Perez and Harper being three abreast up the hill. Middleton reached the line before Perez but could not make the move stick. Geri was still 5th, but just 0.9 off the lead at this point.
Roberts was still with Geri and looking very racey, lap 3 Geri had to defend into Clark's which allowed the front four to open up a gap on him. Another defensive line into the Hairpin meant a poor exit, and sure enough, on the approach to Duffus Dip both Roberts and Priaulx were able to drive past Geri. Down to 7th - but now TSL was flashing up a whole host of messages. Priaulx was to be investigated for possible jump start, and both Perez and Middleton had been given a drive through penalty. TSL said this was for track limits, but the message was wrong, the Clerk of Fact had ruled they had both jumped the start. Geri needed to get a chuff on again, all of a sudden a podium could be at stake.
7th became 6th again as Middleton was seen to be recovering from an off after Hislops, he and Perez had been tussling for the lead. But Roberts had now opened up a bit of a gap back to Priaulx who had been defending from Geri. There was still work to be done.
Middleton had received and was attacking Geri, Geri went defensive at Clark's with a similar result to before - Middleton came flying through with a better exit, Grady sat on his bumper followed through. Now Geri was down to 8th place with Fagg and Wooder closing. Five laps in of the 12 and this was not going to plan.
Lap 6, Geri chasing Grady through Clark's had to back out as Grady dived right, in front of him, to avoid Roberts who was facing the wrong way on the outside of the circuit after a clash with Tregurtha. Fagg went to take advantage running down the outside where he looked to have almost cleared Grady as well. Grady stayed tight at the Hairpin but then ran out wide carrying too much speed in, trying to hold off Fagg. Fagg went outside and tried to cut back across Geri, but the two just touched and Fagg spound round right in front of Geri who had tried to back out. Geri passed Grady on the run up the hill and was now back up to 5th as Perez served his drive through penalty and rejoined in 14th. With Middleton yet to serve his penalty, and the result of the Priaulx investigation still unknown, maybe the podium was back on?
Geri now had Wooder and Wood in close attention, it took a couple of laps to realise that Wooder didn't have the straight line speed to pass him. Middleton came in at the end of lap 8, rejoining in 12th, and promoting Geri to 4th, Geri had opened up a small gap back to Wooder now. Harper led by over a second from Tregurtha, with Priaulx a,most a second further back, then a 4 second gap back to Geri. To be sure of a podium, Geri needed to get going.
Two laps later, the three at the front had closed up so just 4/10ths covered the three of them. Geri had maintained the gap at 4 seconds from Priaulx. They had lapped Harry King, who had lost his bonnet early in the race, with 3 cars giving him a tow, he was now travelling at their pace. Geri was fastest on lap 11, and the gap to 3rd was down to three seconds, the front three separated by 0.47. One lap to go, Geri still needed to lap King to catch the leaders. And Priaulx had got past the squabbling Tregurtha and Harper!
It all happened at Scotsman. As Geri came down Harper and Tregurtha collided spinning Tregurtha off onto the gravel where he did a full 360. He was still trying to get back on track as Geri arrived to move up into third. Hang the possible Priaulx jump start, Geri was going to get that elusive podium! Priaulx was out front, King right behind Harper and holding on gamely although a lap down.
More drama, rounding Clark's Geri could see that Harper had run wide and was travelling off the outside of the track. He rejoined tbe track 100 metres in front of Geri, but travelling slowly. Geri moved past with only token resistance, Geri was now in second with one corner to go.
This wasn't going away, Geri rounded the final corner and blasted up the hill, across the line and finished 2nd. Indeed he had set his fastest final sector on that final lap. A JHR Developments 1-2 on the podium followed, as did an interview with Richard John Neil of ITV4, to be aired on the Sunday prior to the live race.
The drama wasn't over, multiple protests had been made post race. Both Priaulx and Harper were judged to have jumped the start, their 30 second penalties moved them right down the order, but meant Geri HAD WON! Further checks showed that Perez had been unlucky, he had started well but fairly, a probable podium and possible second win cruelly denied him.
We had to wait for the morning to confirm Geri's win. HHC had protested Geri for the incident with Fagg, this would lead to Geri's first trip to the Clerk's office this season, but it was deemed a racing incident with no fault apportioned. It was official, Geri was a race winner!
The only downsides were that with a reverse grid for the Sunday race, Geri would now start back in 6th - we had willed Seb Priaulx to pull out ball 4, but 6 it was. And because Seb was no longer the race winner, the joint interview with Seb and Geri was pulled from the Sunday ITV4 show. On the plus side, Geri was interviewed separately post race and hopefully this will be aired when the Knockhill race is shown on Motorsport UK in a few weeks time.
So for the TV race, and after much shuffling, the grid would line up Brown, Grady, Tregurtha, Wood, Wooder, Geri, with Middleton, Priaulx and Harper back on rows 5, 7 and 8 respectively. The word was that Wooder had an overnight engine change, so maybe he would have better straight line speed.
Geri got off to a great start once again, immediately pulling clear ahead of Wooder before moving over to cover him off, following Brown, Grady, Tregurtha and Wood to the run to Duffus Dip.
By Scotsman, Brown had gone off into he distance, coming out of the chicane Geri was having to defend robustly from Wooder which allowed the front four to break away. Geri remained tight to the inside white line on the run to the Hairpin, traffic all queueing up behind as no-one wanted to be hung out to dry on the outside.
At the Hairpin Tregurtha was able to pas Grady on the inside and up into second. By the end of the lap Brown was already 1.6 seconds clear of Tregurtha, while just 0.3 seconds covered Tregurtha, Grady and Wood, with Geri already 2 seconds further back. Geri took half a second out of Grady and Wood on lap 2, but things changed on lap 3 when Brown came in to serve a drive through penalty - another jumped start. This meant that Tregurtha inherited the lead, with Grady, Wood and Nicosia next up. Just one place from another podium.
Geri set about closing the gap to Wood, by lap 6 it was down to 1/4 of a second and closing fast. Wooder had been first by Perez, then by Middleton, who in turn passed Perez, the pair were closing up on Geri who needed to get past Wood pronto.
Lap 7, surely Geri would do it this time? He chased hard down to the Hairpin, touching the rear of Wood's car before diving left out of the tow to run down the outside and cut back. Wood went out wide but came back across just as Geri was there, corner to corner they touched, and bang went another bonnet pin. Wood managed to hold onto 4th, but surely it was just a matter of time now, Geri had been quicker every lap since the first and now there was little over a tenth in it.
Lap 8, Wood went it tight at Scotsman, Geri ran into the rear bumper again. Geri hung a car length further back this time and broke out of the tow early, Wood knew what was coming and braked as late as he dare for the Hairpin. Too late! He went in too deep, came out wide and this time Geri was able to cut back in and get alongside before Wood recovede and went right to try and cover off Geri. They banged side to side and Geri's faster exit ensured that he slowly moved ahead of Wood, and up into thrid place. Could Geri catch Grady who was now almost 2 seconds ahead again?
Wood wasn't giving up, twice he tried to make a move on Geri but could not pass. At Clark's he was inches off Geri's bumper as the rear of his car unsettled and spun round - behind Middleton was forced across the gravel striking a glancing blow, the unfortunate Perez too close behind Middleton to avoid the accident smashed into the back leaving him pointing the wrong way with a smashed bonnet hanging off the car.
The upshot for Geri was Grady even further away, but a large gap backwards to Wooder, back up in 4th but over 3 seconds behind Geri with 3 laps remaining. Middleton became embroiled in a battle with Wooder and Collard, and although he eventually came out on top, the gap to Geri increased, while Geri was only able to make token gains on Grady over the final laps.
The race finished Tregurtha, Grady, Geri, another podium and the only driver of the weekend to appear on the podium more than once. And a chance for his first live TV interview of the season with Steve Ryder.
Geri was the top point scorer over the weekend, and while his gain over Tregurtha was minimal, the gains on Wooder, Brown and Harper are much more relevant. AFter race 1, Geri was 51 points adrift of Harper, that gap is down to 9 and the gap to third placed Wooder down to 56. Some continuing good results and movement up the championship is still possible. Geri should go to Rockingham in 2 weeks in confident mood. Certainly we have proven the benefit of a better qualifying session.
See the full timing details from TSL here
Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.
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