Brands Hatch 26/27 October 2013 - Ford Fiesta Junior

Fiesta Junior:
After Donington Park, we sent the Fiesta back to Auto Integrale for the customary post race body work. The incident with Rory cost a new n/s front wing, some repair to the front bumper and both bumpers being painted. We cleaned up the passenger door and decided it did not not replacement although it is a little wrinkly. The n/s front suspension was dismantled and checked over, a new steering arm fitted along with full geometry check to set the Fiesta back to where it should be. With all that, we were ready for the final round of the 2013 season.

We picked up Geri straight from school and braved the M25 on a Friday afternoon, arriving at the circuit just before dusk to unload the car. Predictably, most of Geri's competitors had been testing during the week, most getting some valuable wet practice in on the Tuesday as well as testing other days. Geri was at school and we took the view that with 2013 being our "learning year" we would not take him out of school. Next season will need a rethink of this strategy.

Practice:
In the morning, it was spotted that Geri's front brake pads would not last the whole weekend, so these were chased leaving Geri to bed them in early in the practice session. Rain had fallen overnight, but the track was officially "drying". Geri seemed to be struggling and wasn't happy with the way the session went. Despite that, he finished the session in 6th place from 12 - Sam Watkins being the latest new driver to join the series (and finally usurp Geri as youngest in the race) and set a new record entry for the Fiesta Junior championship. While 6th position was about where we expected (if not hoped) to be, Geri was 0.6 seconds off fastest (Rob Cox) while his 6th place 2 months earlier had been just 0.3 seconds off pole. JJ showed that his poor showing last time out at Brands was a blip as he finished second in session just 1/100th shy of Rob.

Qualifying:
Midway through the morning, the rain fell. The weather was playing the on-off tricks, it looked again like the track might dry, but then down came the rain again and Daniels Motorsport were busy swapping over to wet tyres all round. Geri also asked for his suspension to be softened slightly from the previous settings, the car having been too tail-happy in the wet at Donington.

Rory and Rob were the class of qualifying, but showed the value of getting up to speed quickly as they posted their fastest laps on lap 2 and 5 respectively. The session was plagued by constant drizzle which ensured that the track gave up less grip as the session went on. Thise drivers who set their best times later in the session were those who were some way down the order, indeed Geri qualified in a disappointing 8th place setting his best lap as late as lap 16, taking too long to gain full confidence in the conditions. Geri had been especially strugglig at Graham Hill, early in the session he was getting very sideways lap after lap as he tried to find a cleaner way through the corner. Mention should be made of Aaron (third) and Natasha (fifth), the latter only losing 4th to JJ late in the session.

Post qualifying checks on the car showed up that Geri had lost a bolt from the n/s top mount and another had worked loose - this wouldn't have helped with the suspension geometry moving around. Daniels Motorsport were able to fix this.

Race 1 - Saturday:
Rain continued to fall all afternoon, despite the forecast suggesting it would not. There had been delays earlier due to the conditions, and although the Fiesta drivers were called to assembly around the time expected, they would run even later than the scheduled 17:20 start time. The drivers had been waiting for 15 minutes in the assembly area while the previous race completed, but then as we expected the call to track, the drivers were called out of their cars into the garages for a briefing. There was some push-back on this, the drivers' suits would get wet which would then cause the cars to mist up as the dampness would evaporate out during the race. Eventually all drivers were in the garage where teams were discussing whether the race should take place in the conditions. Some drivers were asking if the race could be rescheduled to the Sunday, but the timetable was too full for that. The Clerk of the Course wa summoned and said he had driven the circuit, in his opinion the circuit was safe so long as the (junior) drivers drove to the conditions. It was suggested that the run down to Graham Hill from Druids should be under yellow flag due to standing water at the bottom of the track.

Some of the drivers looked less enthusiastic than usual, but all 12 lined up on the start line to commence the race in foul conditions, the rain was not abating and darkness was closing in. Geri was lined up 8th on the grid, so on the outside of the 4th row.

Alex made a storming start from 7th (alongside Geri), this freed up space for Michael to come through from 9th and pass Geri. This was Geri's first start in wet conditions since his first race back in June at Cadwell Park. While he has dry starts figured, he had a little too much wheel spin so lost a position to Michael on the run to Paddock. Geri was struggling in the conditions losing 1 to 1.5 seconds a lap to the bunch of cars in front, that lack of wet weather testing now really hurting. while behind Geri, Thomas was again showing his wet weather pace remaining around a second adrift.

Aaron made a move on Natasha down the inside of Paddock, as they reached the bottom of the hill, they were touching, Aaron's rear n/s to Natasha's front offide. This caused Natasha to have a moment across the gravel and although she rejoined the track half way up the hill, she was barely moving as Geri came up behind to be caught by surprise through the rain. The yellow lights were still showing on the entrance to Druids so Geri could not take advantage and pass Natasha. He gave chase for a couple of laps where he was fractionally faster, but not enough to pass her. The lap after Geri came across Natasha, the yellow lights went out at Druids, one lap too late for Geri to have gone for the pass. Geri didn't spot this straight away, not surprising given the glare from lights outside the circuit, in the paddock, even the pit lane exit green light which looked blue in the fading light.

Aaron pulled into the pits on lap 8 promoting Geri temporarily to 8th place but at the end of lap 8 Geri slowed up along the main straight allowing Thomas to go shooting by. Geri drove round to the pit entrance and pulled out of the race. His view was that he wasn't enjoying the race, wasn't racing for any championship poistion and saw no point in risking the car in the conditions - a very adult decision for a 14 year old.

Rob took the race victory he needed to have any chance of winning the championship, but JJ got second place leaving him with enough points to be unassailable, our congratulations go out to JJ on his championship win.

Watch the race 1 video here.

Race 2 - Sunday:
As we said to Geri on Saturday evening, "tomorrow is just another day". And so it proved as Sunday again defied the weather forecasters, this time the weather was sunny where it was supposed to be wet! SO back onto dry tyres and dry suspension settings for the race where Geri would be starting 12th and last due to the previous day's DNF.

Geri was confident that in the dry he could make a good start and gain places into Paddock, the fly in the ointment being that Aaron was alongside him and would have a similar plan. Geri got the start he was looking for, went straight outside Nathan from the row in front passing Aaron at the same time. Then passed Sam as he moved across to the inside and went into Paddock. Aaron had recovered from a slower start, took a wide line outside Sam and then cut across to the inside line through Paddock. Geri was unable to prevent Aaron passing, not having enough grip to cover the inside before Aaron occupied the space, so 3 places gained, then 1 lost. Natasha spun to the inside at Druids causing the drivers behind to go round her, so back up into 9th by the end of the second corner.

Aaron got passed Thomas, Geri was unable to follow him immediately, and took until the fourth lap before a better exit from Graham Hill led to Geri passing Thomas down the Cooper straight and up into 8th. but 4 seconds behind 7th placed Aaron. Geri started to give chase, but a lap later, fluid could be seen coming from Geri's car. The first Geri knew about it was a lurid slide through Paddock, Thomas behind had been treated to windscreen full! Another slide round Druids, followed, as did one round Graham Hill so Geri knew he had a problem, if not what the problem was. Another slide into the Esses allowed Thomas to retake 8th place. Further behind Geri, the coolant spill was causing problems. First Sam span off at Paddock, after a while he was able to get out of the gravel. Then Nathan came round and did the same, Natasha was following, lifted off and also ended up backwards in the gravel. The yellow flags came out followed quickly by the safety car.

Geri circulated behind the safety car for a couple of laps, the handling issue stopped but then he noticed that the water temperature gauge was shooting up into the red. He changed into 5th as he slowed up through Paddock, and as he exited Druids he switched off the engine and coasted down to Graham Hill where he parked up with help from the marshalls - race over.

JJ went on to celebrate his championship signing off with a race win. Back at Nyssa Racing base, we have found a small hose behind the radiator has come adrify allowing the water to be pumped out. Withe hose and water replaced, the engine seems to run fine again, but we will have to strip the whole car down over winter, and now that includes the engine to engine there is no internal damage.

Geri finished the season in 9th place having only joined the championship at round 4. His best finish was Snetterton (4th) with best qualifying at Cadwell Park and Donington Park (5th). This final round saw Geri's first (and second) DNF for the season.

We now look forwards to a full season in 2014, a couple of the drivers will move on through age and ambition, some new drivers will no doubt join at various stages of the season. We now need to spend the off season period preparing Geri for the new challenge, a season where he should be competing for podium positions from the off. Both Geri and Nyssa Racing would like to thanks Daniels Motorsport for all their help, we will be working together next season too.

Watch the race 2 video here.

Watch the race 2 video from rear facing camera here.

Please see the official race report here.

Final words for the season - we had entered Geri into the Ginetta Junior Scholarship but at a late point found his entry was declined as they were not accepting entries from existing race car drivers, even those as inexperienced as Geri. Ginetta did try to help us with an entry into their Winter Series on 9/10 November, but after much discussion we have decided Geri would need more notice/testing/experience in order to make a decent showing. We shall consider this option next season and will watch with interest to see how Alex Read gets on in a couple of wins, good luck Alex.

Check out the Fiesta Junior points standing.

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