Geri visited Rockingham Motor Speedway on the Tuesday prior to the race weekend to get some last minute practice. During this test he had proven he had the pace to be in the top ten, the car was showing to be faultless after being re-shelled the week before after a disastrous weekend at Knockhill. The pace Geri was showing had the team hoping for a positive weekend of top ten finishes. The whole team were looking forward to seeing what Geri could do at the Rockingham circuit where Geri took maximum points and also claimed the Fiesta Junior Championship in 2014 when they visited the circuit.
The Friday before the race weekend there were two scheduled practice sessions for the Ginetta Juniors. The first session was 30 minutes long and the second lasted for 40 minutes. Geri was right on the pace from the start, he set a lap time of 1:38.9 on his second lap whilst he was using old tyres. On lap four Geri pitted to change to a set of new tyres to give the team a chance to see what they could expect to see over the weekend. Unfortunately Geri was unable to improve his lap times during this session. At the end of the session Geri was sat in 13th place on the live timing screens but he was only 0.888 seconds off pole position.
The second session was broken up because of red flags having to be deployed. A lot of time was wasted when Geri was trying to get a tow from Jonathan Hadfield but Hadfield was even slower than Geri. After the session was restarted Geri managed to set a lap time of 1:38.8 which was his quickest during the session, after that lap time he went on to set a pair of 1:38.9 lap times for his final two laps. Once again this meant Geri would have only got 13th if this was his qualifying session. Although the gap between Geri and pole position was down to 0.649 seconds. The team knew it would be an extremely close qualifying session on the Saturday, Geri would need to get a tow off someone who was setting faster lap times than he was to be in a chance with a top ten qualifying.
Saturday came, the Ginetta juniors were first out on track at 9am, it had rained over night so the track was wet and slippery. Jamie Caroline spun on the opening lap of the practice session because of how wet and greasy the track was. Geri was fighting against oversteer and understeer at Deane. Then Patrik Matthiesen overran at the Chicane, worse was to follow when on the first flying lap Bird spun coming out of Yentwood. Will Tregurtha was following Cameron Roberts up the hill, Roberts swerved last minute to miss the stationary car. Unfortunately Tregurtha was unable to miss the flat out impact with Frank Bird’s stationary car. Tregurtha sustained too much damage to be able to repair so he was ruled out of the rest of the weekend. Before the red flags were brought out De Francesco ran in to the gravel trap at Tarzan, the session was brought to a halt before anyone was able to complete a full lap.
The session was restarted with seven minutes time remaining for them to practice, but then Patrik Matthiesen got himself beached at Tarzan which brought out yet another red flag before any laps had been completed. All the drivers returned to the pits once again. The session resumed with just four minutes to go, drivers who were at the front of the queue got in two flying laps. Geri was a bit further back as he had backed off on the out lap trying to look for a good track position.
The plan didn’t work very well, he tucked in behind Jamie Caroline but as they went round Gracelands Caroline went to overtake his team mate Charlie Fagg but at the same time Fagg pulled to the left to overtake Stuart Middleton which meant Caroline sent Fagg spinning off. Geri was sat right behind Caroline so he had to keep on his brakes until he knew where Fagg was going as he didn’t want to get collected and damage his car after it being reshelled the week before. Dropping from 5th to 2nd gear before they were able to get back on the power to get going again, the delay meant the lap time would only be good enough for 12th place with Caroline in 11th. Two seconds faster would have seen Geri in sixth. Both Geri and Caroline didn’t reach the finish line in time to get a second lap.
Qualifying came around at 2pm on Saturday, Geri was driving really well and showing his potential, the car seemed fine too. Both Geri and the team thought 13th place in the practice sessions could be improved on. Geri lined up in the pit lane ready to go out, he was the fourth car in the line. He was behind the three JHR cars of Senna Proctor, Dan Zelos and Billy Monger. Although the three JHR cars soon slowed to allow Geri to pass, Geri slowed right up to fall behind them.
(Geri out during qualifying)
The plan to get a tow off a faster driver worked, he was getting a tow off the JHR boys. Geri’s first lap time was 1:38.8, which was the fastest he had gone earlier in the day, this saw him sat currently in fifth. He went even faster on lap two but by the end of lap three, Geri had dropped to 8th after all the front running drivers had posted their best laps. This was the team’s first ever top ten qualifying of the whole season so far.
Saturday afternoon at 16:55 it was time for race one of the weekend. After the qualifying session earlier in the day the Elite team were in high spirits. As long as Geri stayed out of any trouble for the first few corners the team were confident he could get a strong top ten finish. Geri’s start was pretty decent, he started on the outside line of the fourth row of the grid, he was making small gains on those in front of him on the grid and losing nothing to anyone behind him.
(Geri waiting to start race one from 8th on the grid)
Geri’s initial getaway was better than Zelos alongside him, but the shorter path of the inside line meant that Geri could not pull ahead of Zelos. Therefore this meant they ran alongside one another into turn one on the run down to Deane. Monger, who started 9th on the grid, sat right on Zelos’ bumper which stopped Geri moving across to cover the line into the hairpin. As the trio turned into Deane Dave wooder came steaming round the outside of Geri and Lewis Brown followed Monger through down the inside of Geri. This meant Geri was down to 11th place but he was unscathed.
Through Yentwood and up the hill towards Chapman, the cars in front of Geri were battling for positions. Lewis Brown got past Billy Monger on the exit and this forced Monger off and onto the grass. Geri moved back up to tenth, but as he turned left Jonathan Hadfield was running up the inside and Monger was re-joining the circuit after his off and ran into Hadfield who was then pushed into Geri. Whilst Geri and Hadfield recovered from the incident a number of the cars who were behind managed to get past them. Geri immediately realised he had sustained some mechanical damage. To keep the car going in a vaguely straight line the steering wheel had to be aimed 45 degrees to the left. The car was worse when braking, when Geri braked the car had a mind of its own and was applying opposite lock, when the rear broke away it seemed to randomly help or hinder the catching of the slide.
Geri continued to battle to keep the car in a straight line for another lap. Now down in last place and circulating roughly fifteen seconds off the pace. He instantly decided to pit as he would be lapped multiple times and any finish was unlikely to be classified as a finish. To top it off the car tried to turn right when he came onto the banking which would have ended with him crashing into the concrete wall along the start finish line so he pitted immediately.
(The Elite Motorsport Team checking over the rear of the car.)
The team had a quick look at the rear of the car when Geri pulled into the pits. Although there was minimal damage to the new shell, the rear wheel on the car was doing what it liked out on track because of a crosslink being bent and the hole the bolt sits in had been made considerably larger. There was no other choice but to retire the car as it was unsafe to drive out on track the way it was as it could have caused trouble for the other competitors as well as putting Geri in danger. After the decision to retire this ended Geri’s streak of 32 consecutive race finishes, it was his first DNF since October 2013.
After the race the team found a cut front tyre, so they were able to replace it and put the new tyre onto the rear, moving the rear wheel to the front. This would have an impact later on in the weekend. Looking at the results after the race Geri was adamant he could have had a top ten finish, he was ready to take on the battle he would face in race two from starting at the back of the grid.
Sunday morning brought race two, this time the track was drier. Geri lined up 22nd on the grid, which was last place, but he still felt the pace was there in the car and that he could aim and push forward for a top ten finish. In previous races he had moved up from starting 24th up to 12th at Oulton Park before a red flag shortened the race and at Croft he managed from starting 24th to get up to 11th before being punted off.
Off the line and Geri got a fairly good start, he managed to get away from Esmee Hawkey who was alongside him at the start. He joined in the rush going through turn one where Geri made it past Connor Grady and Rowan Bailey. Although Bailey and Hawkey would come back through as they came out of Deane. Further up front Alex Day had been hit and had pulled off the track on the rise to Yentwood.
Geri attempted to go wide at Tarzan in an attempt to get the cut back and pass Hawkey, as he came round Grady fired himself up the inside to repass Geri. Hawkey got knocked to the left at the chicane and as she came back across she collided with Grady which took them both outside the chicane, this allowed Geri back through. One lap down and Geri had already gained three places from where he started. Not as many as Geri had wanted but he was happy he was going in the right direction to get closer to his aim of a top ten finish. Cameron Roberts went off at Gracelands and re-joined behind Geri after he recovered, another place gained on lap two of the race.
Next up in front of Geri was Bailey, Geri had taken half a second off the gap between him and Bailey so the gap was now 0.775 seconds infront. Bailey overtook Frank Bird going into Deane on lap three, Geri overtook Bird as they came into Yentwood and continued his pursuit of Bailey. Hadfield had spun on the exit of Yentwood which put Geri up into 16th and by the end of that lap he was just a third of a second adrift of Bailey. Now Geri was right up behind Bailey, he dived past on the outside line 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 continued to get worse as the race went on.
Bailey had caught up with Ben Green after he had a spin, Geri was staying closed in on them but braking began to start causing an issue. By late on lap 5 Hadfield had caught back up and came alongside Geri on the run out of Tarzan but he was unable to make the move stick as he was on the outside of Geri. They went through the chicane to find Ben Green bouncing off the outside concrete wall and towards him, he just made it through the gap and Hadfield went through the gap on the outside. Both yellow cars just missed the green one. Hadfield managed to get the better exit out of the chicane and simply drove past the flat out Geri through turn one.
With Geri’s brakes getting worse and worse as the race went on as well as the vibration getting worse too, Grady managed to catch up to Geri and made a pass as they exited turn one. Geri was unable to outbrake him into Deane and defend his position. Although there were suspicions that yellow flags may have been waving at turn one for no obvious reason. Up front Zelos had challenged Proctor for 3rd place and it had subsequently caused a collision and meant Zelos ended up in the position between Geri and Hadfield. Geri was hanging on to this five car group, by this time Hawkey had caught up to Geri. As they got to Tarzan the group were closed right up but they continued through the chicane to the finish line to take the chequered flag without anyone changing positions. This left Geri disappointed in 17th place.
It emerged that the wheel that had been put onto the front of the car from the rear after race one was actually damaged from the drama in race one but the damage was not easily visible to the team. This had caused a massive front end vibration, the bolt that holds the brake disc to the hub had become loose which was affecting the braking ability. The rear wheel bearing had collapsed during the race. This left the team feeling disappointed and thinking of what could have been from this weekend after they had such a promising start to it. The team will regroup and be ready to come back fighting at Silverstone on the 26th and 27th of September.
© Fay Tilley 15th September 2015.