Silverstone 9/10 June 2018 - Ginetta GT5 Challenge
A chance for Geri to race on the iconic full Silverstone Grand Prix circuit for the very first time. Of course he had raced the National circuit, tested on the International circuit in the Porsche Carrera Cup car, and done a couple of wet track days on the full circuit, but never actually raced on it. We were also hoping that running on the full circuit would bring a change of luck - Geri has never finished higher than 3rd at Silverstone on any version of the layout!
Another change for us was the pre-race SIM session, for the first time we would work with the BTCC team Speedworks, with Tom Ingram as our instructor - Tom of course used to live near us and we first met him when Geri was 10, and Tom was racing in the G20 Junior car. A good session on the SIM left Geri feeling confident he could take his good form into the race weekend and make further gains on Kellett and consolidate our second place in the championship.
All photos on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography
We had not been able to get in any pre-event testing at Silverstone, but in any event, there was no shortage of track time on the Friday. Testing looked to be going well, Geri was straight up to speed from session 1 ending that in 6th place, before ending sessions 2 and 3 in 4th and 3rd. We had a good setup and felt confident for the morning, so there was no point in running round for the final session, so Geri bolted on new tyres ready for the morning and did one out lap and then an in lap just to bed them in before packing up for the day.
See the Friday testing times here.
The first big change was that the race would be combined with that for the GRDC Drivers, so there would be 52 cars out in qualifying, with a big speed and time differential between the GT5 and GRDC cars. And maybe a different talent level too, as the GRDC is more aimed at Gentleman and Novices while many of the GT5 grid have higher ambitions?
Despite the long circuit, the number of cars travelling at different speeds was going to mean difficulty in getting a clean run. A red flag after just 2 laps certainly wasn't going to help. with a third of the session lost before qualifying could resume. Even so, we didn't foresee Geri struggling as he did, we qualified back in 11th place, although that would translate to 10th on the grid as one of the AM class had qualified high up. We were 2.3 seconds off the pace, at best maybe the 0.3 could be down to traffic, so it seemed that others, especially Stoney, had found a couple of seconds since Friday, where Geri was running at the same pace. This did not bode well.
Looking at the qualifying data, Geri seemed to have top speed issues, he had been 4 mph slower through the trap on the Sunday at Thruxton compared to the Saturday, and couldn't get a tow past Bird on the final lap, but the team thought they understood what had changed between the two days. Now it seemed that the car was struggling again, with Geri showing 17th, 14th, 11th and 11th through the four speed traps, Geri was running at a big disadvantage.
The team acted quickly, a decision was taken to put in a new engine before the race. Excellent work by the team ensured it was done in good time and that in the race there would be no issues.
Race 1 - Saturday:
A very busy looking grid stretching back to row 29 lined up at the start of the race. With Geri having qualified 11th, he would be lining up on the 6th row, a long way back – and behind Stoney, Kellett, Ward, Evans, Toth-Jones, Rainbow, O’Brien, Grady, Digby and McKenna! We would be relying on a good start.
And it looked just like that to start with, Geri has got off to a good launch at most races this year, this was no different. On the run to Copse he was able to get past Digby only to lose out on acceleration, something that would happen three times in the first lap alone – but Geri still made up two places having got by both McKenna and Rainbow. Geri gained another place on lap 2 passing Brett Ward who was seemingly moving backwards, and more importantly was closer to the lead pair than he had been a lap earlier. A bit more progress like this and maybe a decent result could be rescued?
Geri was now chasing down Digby – again. And struggling to find a way past, on lap 4 Digby passed Toth-Jones so Geri now had a new target car in front. Just as it looked liked Geri too would find a way past Toth-Jones, disaster struck. On lap 5 Rainbow dived inside Ward, who was in turn behind but inside Geri. Rainbow hit Ward into Geri and spun him right round dropping Geri back to 16th place through little fault of his own. Disappointingly this incident wasn’t even looked at post race.
Geri was now in trouble and really needed a safety car to close up the pack, the front drivers were now well clear. Geri picked up two places on lap 6, 2 more on lap 7 and another on lap 8, now up to 11th. That became 10th on lap 9 but now Geri was six seconds behind 9th placed Dyrdal, and really in need of safety car assistance.
Two laps remained, there was no safety car to help out – the first session in all since Friday am testing where there had not been one. Geri pulled back more than 2 seconds on Dyrdal but could do nothing to gain more places and would have to settle for a 10th place finish and a big loss of points to Stoney and Kellett, the latter taking the win on the final lap.
Had the engine made any difference – the speed traps suggested perhaps not, with Geri now showing 22nd, 27th, 25th and 26th through the four speed traps!
Race 2 - Sunday:
Race 2 was on Sunday, the team now took a decision to change the diff and gearbox, there was little else that hadn’t already been changed since Thruxton, so the guys had a busy afternoon/evening, but once again came up trumps with a car ready to go in plenty of time.
This time a 10th place start for Geri, behind Kellett, Stoney, McKenna, Digby, O’Brien, Bird, Grady, Toth-Jones and Dyrdal. And a great start as Geri launched away from the line, Dyrdal and Grady were passed before Becketts, Toth-Jones and Bird were passed by Vale and Geri got up into 5th along the Wellington Straight by passing O’Brien, only for the latter to out-drag him out of Luffield – still 4 places gained on the first lap showed some hope.
The joy was short-lived, Toth-Jones drove by on lap 2, Bird simply drove by on lap 4 while Digby fell off leaving Geri in 7th. A measure of our frustration was that O’Brien was now up to 2nd and he had just completed the first lap ahead of Geri, it looked like another race not going our way. Bird was repassed on lap 5 moving Geri back up to 6th place, but now 2.5 seconds adrift of Toth-Jones in 5th.
That gap opened up to 3.2 seconds on lap 6, but on lap 7 Geri gained a place at the expense of his team mate O’Brien who was shoved off the track and into the gravel. Another lap and Geri was getting in amongst the back markers, the gap to Toth-Jones remained over 3 seconds, but then Toth-Jones was given the black and white flag for track limit violations. A lap later and it was a 5 second penalty to Toth-Jones who would now be behind Geri, not that Geri knew this.
Geri’s tyres were still good, on lap 9 Geri took a second out of the gap to Toth-Jones, a better lap on lap 10 would have been a new fastest lap until Geri tangled with backmarkers coming on to Wellington Straight – but he was more than 2 seconds faster than Toth-Jones on lap 10 alone, the gap was closing fast.
Final lap, Geri closed down Toth-Jones and dummied him into Vale, now could Geri catch McKenna and take that final podium place He was getting ever closer, but Geri finished just half a second adrift in 4th place.
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Post race McKenna was adjudged to blame for the incident that saw O’Brien marooned in the gravel and was given a penalty which took him behind Geri – the final podium place was ours. We still lost points to Stoney and Kellett who again finished 1st and 2nd, but dropped a lot less points than a 10th place start suggested. We are now 78 points behind Kellett, and 28 behind Stoney, so a lot of work to do.
Despite having the 4th, 4th, 8th and 2nd fastest sectors during the race, Geri was still 20th, 23rd, 21st and 23rd through the speed traps so more work would be needed to understand the cause before we went to Spa.
See full timing details from TSL here.
See the full standings here.
Next time out is Spa-Francorchamps on 21/22 July.