Silverstone 17/18 September 2016 - Ginetta Junior
A long weekend started on Thursday with the Ginetta test day in advance of the BTCC Support test day on Friday. With all that testing going on, we declined further testing with JHR although most of the team also got in a couple of sessions on a very hot Wednesday afternoon.
Thursday was much cooler, and when we arrived at the circuit around 08:00, it was foggy. The first session was supposed to start at 09:00 with 4 x 40 minute sessions and 1 x 30 minutes but the fog threw all that out. In cool conditions the juniors finally got onto track at 10:45 and rather than just lose the first session and carry on from their, the organisers changed the timetable to give 4 x 30 minutes and a final 25 minute session. This meant that turnaround time between sessions was reduced and made for a very bust day as the sessions ran alternately with Junior and G55 cars only.
Session one looked promising, Geri finished 6th but he had given Ayres the best tow ever costing him a place, and was more like 3/10ths shy of second placed Priaulx who we new to be running realistically. Wooder was a couple of tenths quicker still, but we had no way of knowing how real that time was.
Session two was disappointing, back in 11th and half a second adrift of third placed Priaulx. We knew times were not representative, a large number of drivers were ignoring track limits, especially at Copse, as they were not being policed. It is possible to take Copse flat in 6th if you run far enough wide, and the extra speed carried more than makes up for the extra distance travelled! Additionally Geri was suffering from severe wheel balance problems, a pit stop to change the rear wheels made little difference. Looks like we need a new set of wheels (round ones!). Geri only did three laps in his first stint, and only in his final stint did he set a time, the wheel issues restricting him to about half the laps other drivers got in.
Session three was even worse and although Geri put in his best lap on the second one, he could not improve and finished 13th and 6/10ths off the lead. There was a long break 6 laps in, in Geri's words "Digby came up behind him tucking in for a tow so I lifted off and suddenly he speared off to the left and into the wall" bringing out a red flag to recover both him and Ayres who was stuck in the gravel.
Geri was still struggling to get a decent lap in with a tow. He felt that a tow was needed down towards Becketts and also another up the Wellington Straight, so you would need to work in threes - something that seemed to be beyond the team members he was assigned with. A poor fourth session saw Geri back in 10th and a second off the front, but bizarrely fastest through the final speed trap, most likely because he crossed the line one lap almost in Ayres boot. Geri's sector times suggested he should have been further forwards, but he admitted he wasn't driving so well this session.
It was decided to sit out the first 10 minutes of the final session to give the car a little longer to cool off. And it might have been better to sit it out completely as Geri finished 14th of 15, 0.8 off the front, and only by virtue of his final lap. Frustratingly we thought the session had longer to run, TSL was still showing 5 minutes when the flag came out to end the session, just as Geri was getting the right track position.
So all in all a disappointing day - full timing information from the day can be found here.
Friday Session 1:
Friday practice would comprise a pair of 30 minute sessions. A sharp change in weather saw rain on Friday morning, causing more delays. The first session was wet and punctuated by 3 separate red flag incidents. Geri got in one timed lap in each of the first two sessions, but the first one had been good enough to put Geri on provisional pole!. There was just the outlap on the third session. Harper had tried to go round the outside of Geri at Luffield, Geri couldn't see anything and stayed on the wide line forcing Harper to either back out or go in the gravel, he took the latter and got stuck.
Finally in the fourth session, the drivers managed to get in two or three laps, King was quickest on his first, then quicker still on his second of two to lead the session. As the flag came out, Geri was sitting 9th but moved up to second with his third lap effort, then pushed back to 4th as Harper and Brown both went faster after Geri had taken the flag. There was the usual lack of policing of track limits which could have affected the times. Certainly on this evidence, if there was a wet weekend, Geri would be feeling confident.
Friday Session 2:
By late afternoon the track had dried out although the clouds remained. Geri started off quick enough, putting his best laps in early, but could not get going after that. After a pitstop half way through, Geri was completely off the pace, complaining that he just couldn't get a tow. We finsihed the session very disappointed to be back in 13th place. Clearly we would need to raindance all night on this showing.
The full timing information from the day can be found here.
The final triple header race event of the weekend, a final chance to make a big gain - or big loss. But the raindance had been working, the track was damp rather than wet like yesterday, and confidence was high. With time for four laps remaining, Geri was sitting in 5th and working well with Harry Dyson making his debut with JHR. But the track was now starting to dry out and the order was changing lap by lap. Geri was getting quicker too, then another quick one. With time for two laps left, a quick one was needed. Unfortunately Geri almost ran into Ayres on this lap costing himm massive time and also affecting his final lap, enough that although his final lap was his best, it was not good enough, Geri ending the session back in 10th place.
Worse for Geri was that his main rivals all finished ahead, with Wooder second, Brown seventh, Harper sixth, and Priaulx on pole. Geri was in need of a performance if his hopes of third place were to continue.
Geri was starting a long way back in 10th place on the grid, which placed him on the inside behind Priaulx, Wooder, Perez, Tregurtha, Fagg, Harper, Brown, Dyson and Middleton with King and Hornby on the row behind. And with a track that was now officially dry again.
Geri got away well and managed to hold off Middleton as they went into Copse side by side. Middleton and Wood tried to go round the outside at Becketts but that didn't work out, ahead Perez had been shoved to the outside and Geri gained another place, moving up to 8th exiting Becketts. Up Wellington Straight, Harper, Brown and Dyson were three abreast as Geri was rubbing Brown's bumper. Geri stayed on Brown's tail and drove between Harper and Dyson moving into 6th place as they braked for Brooklands. Geri took a tap from behind but carried on to finish the first lap in 6th place, behind Wooder, Priaulx, Tregurtha, Fagg and Brown with King right behind and Dyson next up.
Photograph courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography
King got a massive run out of Copse and looked to be past Geri at Maggotts, But Geri wasn't giving up the place easily and managed to keep King out wide, holding onto 6th place. King tried a cutback and got along Geri at the end of the Wellington Straight, but he was on the outside so had to concede going into Brooklands. The defensive line cost Geri, King came out much faster and was just 7/100ths behind Geri as they crossed the line.
King looked to go down the inside on the straight, Geri moved over to cover him off so King went back wide in time for the entry to Copse. Geri couldn't get all the way across to cover him off and King drove round the outside of Copse, about 3 car widths off the track and past Geri. It was already plain that track limitis were not being properly policed. Geri closed right up on King down Wellington Straight, but King braked early forcing Geri to take evasive action outside. This slowed Geri and alloed Wood to catch up behind, now within half a second.
Lap 4, and again King crosses past the green bit at Copse and gains a couple of car lengths on Geri. At the end of lap 4 Geri closed right up again and was looking to take an inside line to pass King, but just couldn;t quite get there. And Wood was getting closer, the gap from King to Wood just 4/10ths with Geri in between them. The front four were getting away, Fagg was having a lonely race in 5th while Geri and the two Elite cars were running in formation for 6th, 7th and 8th.
Geri was bum-drafting King down Wellington, and now Wood was attempting to go round the outside. Lap 6 and Fagg caught the lead pack, Brown got sent wide at Becketts and back down to 5th, Geri and the Bumbles also closing in on Brown. As the cars turned into Brooklands, this was now an 8 car battle for the lead. King ran wide again, this time going outside Brooklands, but managed to stay in front of Geri. Geri, in 7th place was 1.8 seconds off the lead, Wood just 2/10ths further back. There was a two second gap back to Dyson in 9th place.
Seven laps in and it was even closer, Geri was now 1.6 off the lead but still seventh, and had eked out half a tenth on Wood that lap. It all went wrong at Becketts where Geri's car suddenly span round. Wood tried hard to avoid Geri but with Geri round at more than 70 degrees, the car took a lot of space and the end of the bonnet took a big whack sending it fully open and breaking the restraint and the bonnet pins.
Aside from Wood, Geri was passed by Dyson, Perez, Hornby, Middleton and Harper before the end of lap 8, although Wood came into the pits with a puncture. Geri's car was not right, the bonnet was lifting doing his visibility, not to mention aero, no favours. But it was also weaving along the straights, a rear suspension link had broken allowing the o/s rear wheel to move around side to side! With this, Geri was a sitting duck. passed by Collard and Ayres on lap 9, Caldwell on lap 10 and finally on lap 11 Dineen and Digby got through leaving Geri to finsih 17th, the double whammy being that he would now start race 2 from 17th rather than 7th or 8th.
There was only 2.5 hours to the start of the next race, the team had a lot of work to do to patch up Geri's bonnet which had been badly damaged, and to repair the rear suspension. Once again JHR came through and got Geri back on the grid. Geri was going to have his work cut out to salvage the weekend having taken heavy points losses from his main rivals for 3rd through 7th.
STarting so far back, Geri ought to be quicker than most cars around him. Indeed, only Grady had failed to finish the race so would start a the back on the row behind Geri, and alongside Wood whose pitstop ncaused him to be classified last.
Geri went straight past Digby from the start and was inside Dineen by Copse, going into Becketts right on Middleton's tail. A good run up the straight saw Geri drive outside Middleton and up to Ayres as they arrived at the complex. One lap down and up to 14th, with Wood right behind him again. Geri was all over Ayres, giving him a tap down the start-finish straight, another before Becketts and yet another up the Wellington Straight before diving inside at Brooklands and up into 13th place.
Geri was now behind Collard and Caldwell, and for two laps could not do much about them. Collard was now running wide everytime at Copse with impunity. The cars would bunch up at Brooklands threatening an incident every lap. By the end of lap 4, Dyson had fallen into the clutches of Collard. Wood was just 3/10ths shy of Geri who was still in 13th place. At the end of Wellington Straight, Geri went out wide to put pressure on Caldwell, Dyson and Collard touched sending Collard off the track to the left before spinning backwards across the track in front of Geri who had to lift, allowing Wood to come through. So two places gaioned, one lost, 12th after 5 laps.
Wood tried to go inside Dyson at Copse, the contact broke Dyson's bonnet pins and sent Wood into a spin in front of Geri who had to run wide at Copse to avoid. With Dyson's bonnet now lifting, Geri was able to pass him down Wellington Straight and up into the top ten. But while the front nine cars were covered by 2.5 seconds, Geri was now a further 2.7 seconds back. Geri was chipping away, by lap 9 the gap to 9th placed Harper was down to 1.7 seconds, Dyson was sitting right on Geri's bumper. Geri took another 6/10ths out of Harper on lap 10, surely he was too far behind with just one lap remaining?
All hell broke loose at Luffield. In the squabble at the front, Wooder ran wide, came back and pushed leader Brown into a spin and out of contention. King took the lead coming out of the corner but ran wide allowing Priaulx to run though and take his maiden win from Wooder by 0.1. Geri crossed the line in 9th place, just 1.5 seconds behind the winner. A decent come back but one wonders what could have been had he started 5 rows further ahead? And as a triple header race, ball 5 was drawn for the reverse grid, somewhere Geri could conceivably have finished if not for the race 1 suspension breakage. With Priaulx having a second and a first place (and pole), the points gap back to 7th was disappearing fast.
Final race of the meeting, and held early on Sunday morning before the first BTCC race in bright and sunny conditions. Geri would be starting from 9th place, so back on the outside of the grid and alongside Tom Wood. Harper was directly in front of Geri, and the points advantage he had over Geri had been reduced after a penalty applied to race 1.
Wood outdragged Geri off the line and was able to take the line ahead of Geri into Copse, leaving Geri in 10th place. Worse was that Geri got swamped at the end of the Wellington Straight as Brown, Dyson and Caldwell all sailed straight past him. It was evident that Geri had already sustained some damage, something could be seen to be flapping underneath his car and it was plaibly affecting his straight line speed. However the three cars that passed him all came together at Brooklands, Geri managing to miss three spinning cars across the track and resume back in 10th place, but already 1.8 seconds adrift of 9th placed Perez.
Geri halved the gap to 9th place on lap 2 but Middleton had taken a full second out of Geri and was now right on his bumper. Once again Geri would be passed by a car fully outside track limits at Copse so down to 11th. Geri tried to keep up with Middleton, losing a little at Brooklands but on lap 4 Middleton again ran miles wide at Copse taking a bigger chunk out of Geri. On lap 5 Middleton caught the back, Geri took 1/2 a second out of Middleton and while the front two had got away, 3rd to 12th was covered by just 2 seconds.
At the start of lap 6, Ayres and Johnson tangled at the back leaving Johnson beached in the gravel at Copse. The marshals were unable to push him clear so there were three of laps spent behind the safety car - for some reason the tractor wasn't in place at Copse and took an eternity to arrive. This had the effect of bunching up the cars while Johnson's car was moved to safety. At the start of the safety period, Middleton and Wood both passed Perez under yellows, MIddleton also passing Harper before giving the place back. Disppointingly both drivers were allowed to keep their positions after post-race judicials even though both were given points on their licence! Plainly breaking the rules prospers!
It was now a scheduled three lap sprint to the finish, wth a time limited race. There was a gap between Perez and Geri but by the end of the lap he had caught up and was battling with Hornby and Perez. On lap 10 going ito Becketts it was a 5 car battle with Harper and Wood having fallen back into the fight, the gap behind Geri being a second. Five different lines were taken into Brooklands, Geri running in from farthest right on the straight. Hornby gave Harper hip and shoulders onto the grass, Harper rejoined the track right in front of Geri and then promptly span. Geri went hard right in avoidance but just clipped the spinning Harper losing a headlamp and a piece of passenger door. This slowed Geri just enough for Brown to come past exiting Luffield, so Geri was 11th. Behind, Ayres came round and hit Harper broadside leaving Ayres stranded on the track leaving the officials no choice but to red flag the race. Somehow Harper had got going again and was classified back in 17th earning valuable points.
All in all, a tough weekend for Geri. With dropped scores taken into account, Geri is still 6th, but now 11 points behind Harper. More importantly perhaps we are now just 3 points ahead of Priaulx who had a massive points haul this weekend. Interestingly, Harper and Priaulx are fighting for the 2016 Rookie championship. We move to the final round at the Brands Hatch GP circuit in two weeks.
See all the timings from TSL here.
Check out the Ginetta Junior points standings.
Send comments to: email@example.com