Rockingham 27/28 August 2016 - Ginetta Junior
We started preparation for the weekend with the Ginetta test day on Tuesday, when summer was most definitely with us. There were 5 sessions during the day, and because Cam wasn't going to be racing at the weekend, Geri was to work with Kyle Hornby. Towing round the banking would be an absolute must. There was a little excitement in the first session, Kyle spun at Gracelands while Geri was following closely. Geri managed to run wide thinking he had avoided the crash, but when they came back to the pits, the end plate of Kyle's rear wing was bent and there was a small mark on Geri's car!
The day was not a success with Geri placing well donw the order in all five sessions. While it was hard to tell how realistic other team's times were, Priaulx was right near the front in every session and we knew his times were real. All in all, a disappointing day which left us with much to think about.
The full detail from testing on Tuesday can be seen here.
There was a further test day on the Friday, this time just the two sessions of 50 m inutes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In the morning session Geri finished in 7th place, just 0.3 off second place, but more worryingly, 0.9 off Priaulx who was fastest - and of course we knew that his was a realistic time. The afternoon session did not go so well, it was plain that while being towed round by Kyle, Geri was struggling to keep up around the banking. For all that, Geri was just 7/1000ths slower than Kyle, but 12th and 13th was not where we expected to be. After all, Rockingham had been the scene of Geri's best qualifying last year and the scene of his double win and lap record in his final Fiesta Junior weekend.
All images on this page courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography
Data was studied, video was studied, there was some feeling that Geri's gearbox might be getting tight so this was swapped that evening. It was also thought that the alternator might not be fully charging, but when this was tested late in the evening, this seemed OK. Being a triple header round, there was no scope for getting Saturday morning wrong, first session out was qualifying!
The full detail from testing on Friday can be seen here.
Qualifying was a disaster. At no point did we ever look on the pace, and even though Geri set his fastest lap on lap 2, he never figured in the top 10. He just seemed slow out on the circuit, yet strangely fast, at least through the first and third speed traps. Qualifying 13th was not going to help, being more than 1.3 seconds off pole most certainly not.
More checks were done, the data showed the alternator was not pumping out enough charge - it was taken out and the shaft found to be bent. Presumably as it warmed up, this caused more of an issue than when it was cold. The alternator was changed, hopefully this would help in the first race?
Starting 13th meant Geri would need to make up some places to maintain his record of all but one top ten finishes for the season. And we were mindful of last year when we suggested Geri drive right round the outside on the opening lap, figuring that he would gain more places than he would lose trying to slot back in at Deane.
From the start, Geri pulled away OK. The row in front was Wooder on the inside and Hornby on the outside, Hornby got away and Geri was holding station with Wooder, so started to move outwards, but at the middle of the banking both were still running low, Wooder running well under the inside white line while Geri stayed just above it. At the track straightened up, Geri dived inside Wooder, and it looked like many places were going to be gained. At the last moment, Harper went inside to cover off Geri as they went into Deane. Coming out, Hornby got showved onto the grass by Fagg but came back across in front of Geri, the break in momentum costing Geri 3 places at Yentwood, with Wooder, Wood and Bird getting by. Down to 14th.
Geri tried a late braking move into Tarzan but places gained going in were lost coming out as the cars were all too close to get through cleanly. Down to the chicane and Geri looked like he would get by Wood coming out, but WOod just drove past Geri even before they reached the start/finish line.
The cars were all bunched up, on lap 2 Geri tried to cut back on Wood at Tarzan but was then on the wrong side of the track for the chicane. On lap 3 Digby dived inside Geri going into Deane, but Geri repassed on the exit. That would be the last time all race that Geri would be troubled from behind, although Wood and Geri continued to run within thousandths of each other so Geri was unable to progress forwards either. However, geri was being gapped on the banking and then regaining the time on the infield section.
Geri was stuck at the back of a seven car train, itself only a second off the leading pack. Spots of rain fell, but these had little effect until lap 7 when the rain was now falling sufficiently to add a couple of seconds to the lap times. Geri remained stuck in 14th until lap 7 when further forwards, Harper and Hornby came together at Deane spinning Harper out and back behind Geri. Geri continued to chase after Wood, but the gap remained constant at around 3/10ths to the end, Geri finishing 13th, his worst result of the season. The only positive was that we gained one point on Harper who we are chasing for 5th place, and Wooder didn't take full advantage with a tough result himself. On the down side, Brown took a podium and moved into 3rd place in the championship - the gap to third now increasing.
Race 2 was scheduled to run as the last race on Saturday. As we waited for the previous Clio Cup race to complete the rain was falling heavily. The Ginetta drivers were lined up in the assembly area but then the skies darkened and the wind whipped up. The grandstand was evacuated even before banners were blown across the track. There was a delay of 40 minutes until the decision was taken to hold over the race until the morning, when it would be added to the schedule first thing.
Geri had been looking forwards to a wet race thinking it an opportunity to make up some places regardless of whether the car was a little slow or not, but Sunday arrived bright and dry. On the plus side, the extra evening had given the team time to go right through the car and the data to see if anything could be found and Geri was approaching Sunday with a little more confidence.
Still starting back in 13th place, so on the inside of the circuit, with Harper alongside, Fagg and Wood directly in front. Harper has always started well, and this was no execption and he pulled across in front of Geri before they reached the banked corner. Wood was running high, but then geri went right up high along the wall as he came out of the banking and running down to Deane. Going inside hadn't worked in race 1 so let's try going outside. It made no difference, he had passed Harper and Fagg on the oval but they dipped back inside at Deane.
At Yentwood, Wooder had been spun round, Geri managed to keep inside and out of trouble, and in doing so also passed Hornby, Bird and Fagg, so up to 10th. Geri ran into the back of Harper at Chapman as the cars ahead all concertinered, breaking both bonnet pins and leaving the bonnet moving up and down - already. One of the things spotted by the team was Geri overbraking into Tarzan, it looked impressive as he made huge gains going in, but maybe he was losing more coming out, so for this race he was braking more conservatively there. This meant he just sat following Harper around, seemingly unable to make much impression and the gap between the pair remaining constant.
A place was gained on lap 3 as Priaulx went in too hot at Deane and spun wide, he would rejoin further back. Grady was now holding up a bunch of cars with Brown, Wood, Harper and Geri stuck behind and running within a second on the track. Grady ran wide at Pif-Paf the next three cars able to run inside him while Geri moved past on the approach to Gracelands, just completing the move before the yellow flags came out for Dineen who was stranded up against the fencing on the inside after Gracelands. There was some post race concern as the commentator had thought Geri may have passed under yellow, but the TV pictures (highlights were shown on ITV4 at lunchtime) showed that Geri passed Pif-Paf before yellow flags were shown there. Now up to 8th place.
The race continued with Harper and Geri running within a tenth of each other each lap, until the final lap where Geri and Harper closed right up on Wood at Deane. Wood was now having to defend, he took an inside line at Tarzan which Harper followed so Geri went wide hoping to get outside Harper and on Wood's bumper, but could not quite get there as the three cars sorted themselves out still bumper t bumper, order unchaged. Geri made the largest final lap gain and crossed the line just 14/100ths off Harper, and as would prove more important, just 1/2 a second adrift of 6th placed Wood. The importance being that post-race the reverse grid was drawn to form from 6th, so Wood on pole for the final race of the weekend.
With the reverse grid in place, the grid line up with the 2 Elite Motorsport cars of Wood and King locking out the front row, from Brown, Perez, Middleton, Tregurtha, Harper and Geri. So this time Geri would be on the outside of the grid.
Harper only got half a car length on Geri intially but then got boxed in behind Tregurtha as Middleton went wide and Geri chose to follow. But Middleton outbraked himself, missed Deane and ran into the tyre wall dropping him back to last. Geri tucked in behind Perez and came out of Deane between Tregurtha nad Harper as he slotted back in. Tregurtha moved left to take a faster line through Yentwood but this opened the door for Geri who gratefully went through and up into 5th chasing Perez and Brown.
Geri was already having to defend, which was letting Brown get away while Perez had caught up with the Bumbles. Tregurtha ran high and looked to get past Geri, but Geri toughed it out under braking into Deane to hold 5th place. Perez got by Wood at Yentwood and now there was a 5 car train for second place, King having made a small break at the front.
Tregurtha tried to go outside of Geri into Tarzan but Geri used all the available track to hold him off - Tregurtha tried to cut back and was alongside again on the run to the chicane, but on the outside, so Geri went through ahead. Compromised by all the defending, Geri had no choice but to aim for the shortest way round the banking and went down early, only for Tregurtha to simply drive round the outside, already being past as they went into turn one. Tregurtha crossed down in front so Geri went high in an effort to do sometjing different, but the place was lost.
Geri now had Fagg closest behind, but pulled clear of him whilst chasing down Tregurtha and the leading pack. With two laps remaining, Geri was still just 0.7 off Tregurtha and Priaulx had moved up to 7th, but a second adrift of Geri. Tregurtha got by Brown on lap seven and while Geri matched Brown's time, Priaulx was on teh move and gained half a second on the pair of them. Geri now had to worry about behind more than ahead.
Final lap, Priaulx caught right up coming out of Yentwood and tried to pass, Geri fended him off and then kept a defensive line to the finish to hold off Priaulx and hold the 6th place.
A tough weekend for Geri and while he had moved to within 2 points of 5th placed Harper and made small gains on Wooder, Brown was now the third placed man and further ahead. With five races to go, Geri is going to need some big results.
See the full details from TSL here.
Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.
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