Rockingham 5/6 September 2015 - Ginetta Junior

Ginetta Junior:
The Tuesday test sessions had gone well, Geri looked to be running well inside top ten pace and the car behaved faultlessly, despite the reshell having been carried out last week. We were all looking forwards to a good result at the weekend on the circuit where Geri took maximum points and claimed the Fiesta Junior Championship on his last visit.

There were two test sessions set for Friday, the first was 30 mins and the second was 40 mins. Geri was on the pace right out of the box setting a 1:38.9 on lap 2 on old tyres before pitting on lap 4 to swap to new ones to simulate the weekend’s running. Unfortunately he was unable to improve on this during the session. We ended a little disappointed with 13th place and 0.888 off the pole time.

Session two was broken up with a red flag. Geri wasted a lot of time trying to get a tow from Hadfield, but Hadfield was slower than Geri. After the restart, Geri managed to improve to 1:38.8 before posting a pair of 1:38.9s as his final laps of the session. But again only good enough for 13th place, although the gap to pole was down to 0.649. It was going to be close in qualifying on Saturday, and Geri would need to get a tow from the right person.

Free Practice:
Overnight rain had left the circuit wet for the 9am free practice session. So wet that Caroline spun on his outlap, Geri fought off understeer and oversteer at Deane, then Matthiessen overran at the chicane. Worse was to follow on the first flying lap, Bird had spun coming out of Yentwood, Tregurtha following Roberts up the hill was unsighted as Roberts swerved at the last moment, Tregurtha unable to miss the flat out impact with Bird that badly damaged the front of his car. Tregurtha would play no more part in the weekend’s proceedings. Before the red flags came out, De Francesco ran into the gravel at Tarzan, the session stopped before anyone could complete a full lap.

The session was restarted with 7 minutes on the clock, but Matthiessen beached at Tarzan bring out another red flag before any laps had been completed, the drivers all coming back into the pit lane again.

With 4 minutes to go the track was opened, the drivers at the front of the queue got in two laps, Geri was further back in the queue and backed off on the outlap looking for a good track position. The plan didn’t work, he tucked in behind Caroline, but as they rounded Gracelands, Caroline went to overtake team mate Fagg, who in turn pulled left to overtake Middleton, Caroline sending Fagg into a spin off the circuit. Geri was immediately behind Caroline and had to brake until he knew where Fagg was going, dropping from 5th to 2nd gear before they were able to get back on the power – the delay was a double whammy. The lap time was only good enough for 12th (with Caroline 11th) but 2 seconds would have seen Geri placed 6th. And secondly, neither Caroline nor Geri reached the finish line in time to do a second lap.

We needed a tow, Geri was driving well, the car seemed fine and we felt that 13th place in Free Practice could be improved upon. Geri lined up in the pit lane behind the three JHR cars of Proctor, Zelos and Monger and although they soon slowed to let him by, so Geri slowed right up to fall back in behind them. The plan worked, a 1:38.8 on lap 1 was as fast as Geri had gone earlier and 5th on the boards. Faster still on lap 2, although Geri would fall to 8th by lap 3 when all the front runners had posted the best they could do – so our first top ten qualifying position for the year!

Race 1:
After qualifying, spirits were up within the Elite Motorsport camp. So long as Geri could stay out of trouble for the first couple of corners we were confident he could get a good top ten result.

The start was decent enough, sat on the outside of the fourth row, Geri was making small gains on those in front and losing nothing to those behind. The initial getaway was better than Zelos alongside, but the shorter path of the inside line meant Geri could not pull ahead, and they ran through Turn 1 side by side on the run down to Deane. Monger starting 9th on the grid sat right on Zelos’ bumper ensuring that Geri could not move across to cover off the hairpin. As they turned into Deane, Wooder came steaming round the outside, and Brown followed Monger through inside Geri – down to 11th but unscathed.

Through Yentwood and up the hill to Chapman, the cars in front were jostling for position, Brown got past Monger on the exit and Monger was forced off onto the grass. Geri moved back up to 10th, but as he turned left, Hadfield was running up inside and Monger rejoined the circuit running into Hadfield who was in turn pushed into Geri. While Hadfield and Geri recovered, a number of cars went by but then Geri realised straight away that he had suffered mechanical damage, the steering wheel now point 45 degrees left to run in a vaguely straight line. Worse, under braking the car had a will of its own, and applying opposite lock when the rear broke away seemed to randomly help or hinder catching the slide.

Geri continued for another lap, now down in last place and circulating some 15 seconds off the pace. He realised quickly that he would be lapped multiple times at this pace and any finish was unlikely to be classified. And to cap it all the car tried to turn right going round the banking, so Geri took the decision to pull into the pits. A quick look at the rear of the car showed that although there was minimal damage to the nice new shell, the rear wheel had a mind of its own due to a crosslink being bent and the bolt hole enlarged. There was no choice but to retire, ending a run of 32 consecutive finishes for Geri, his last DNF being back in October 2013.

After the race, the team found a cut front tyre, so were able to replace this and put the new tyre on the rear, moving the rear to the front. This would have an impact later.

Looking at the results post-race, Geri was sure that he could have finished comfortably in the top ten but was ready for the challenge of starting last in race 2.

Race 2:
Sunday morning, a new day and brighter weather. Geri would line up 22nd and last on the grid but still felt the pace was there to aim at top ten – he had managed to reach 12th from 24th at Oulton before a red flag shortened the race, and got up to 11th from 24th at Croft before being punted off.

Geri got away from Hawkey alongside from the start, and joined the rush through turn 1 where he also got past Grady and Bailey, although Bailey and Hawkey would come back coming out of Deane. Further forwards, Day had been hit and would pull off the track on the rise from Yentwood. Geri tried a deep entry to Tarzan in an attempt to cut back inside Hawkey, but as he came round, Grady fired up the inside to repass. Hawkey got knocked to the left at the chicane, coming back across she collided with Grady taking them both outside the chicane and letting Geri back through. One lap down and three places gained – maybe not as many as hoped, but at least going in the right direction.

Roberts went off at Gracelands to recover behind Geri, so another place gained on lap 2, with Bailey up next in front. Geri had taken half a second out of Bailey who was now 0.775 in front. Bailey overtook Bird going into Deane on lap 3, Geri passed Bird on the inside going into Yentwood and continued his pursuit of Bailey. Hadfield had spun round exiting Yentwood, moving Geri up to 16th and by the end of the lap was just 1/3 second adrift of Bailey.

Following right behind, Geri dived past Bailey on the outside at Tarzan but was unable to get turned in and keep the place. Geri was now picking up a vibration from the front left which would get worse as the race progressed. Bailey had caught up with Green after the latter had a spin, Geri was staying in touch but braking was becoming an issue. By late on lap 5 Hadfield had caught back up and came alongside Geri on the run out of Tarzan, but on the outside so unable to make a pass. They went through the chicane, Geri was presented with Green bouncing off the outside wall and towards him, he just made it through the gap while Hadfield went outside, both yellow cars just missing the green one! Hadfield got the better exit out of the chicane and simply drove past the flat out Geri through turn 1.

With Geri’s brakes now getting worse, as was the vibration, Grady caught up and passed exiting turn 1, Geri unable to outbrake him into Deane and defend, although there was a suspicion of a yellow flag being waved through turn 1 (for no obvious reason). Up front, Zelos had challenged Proctor for 3rd and in the ensuing collision had fallen back into place between Hadfield and Grady. Geri was hanging on gamely to this 5 car group (Hawkey had closed up behind Geri). By Tarzan, the group was closed right up but they continued through the chicane to the finish line without further change, leaving Geri disappointed in 17th place.

It transpired that the wheel that had been put on the front from the rear had been damaged in the race 1 even though not easily visible. This had caused massive front end vibration, the bolt holding the brake disc to the hub had worked loose affecting the braking ability. And the rear wheel bearing had collapsed also. A frustrating end to what started as a promising weekend. The team will regroup and be ready for Silverstone in three weeks.

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

Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.

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