Snetterton 3-4 August 2019 - Ginetta GT5 Challenge
For the second time this season, the Ginetta GT5 Challenge would be a supporting act on the BTCC race weekend. Last time out at Thruxton, Geri recorded a win and a second place and was hoping for more of the same. See the official pre-race preview.
To assist in achieving the desired results, we tested on both the Wednesday (four sessions during the day) and on the Friday (just the two sessions). Wednesday testing included instruction in the car from none other than Ash Sutton, who provided great guidance throughout the day despite Geri brushing a tyre wall and losing a headlight! When Geri went out on his own on well worn tyres he could still get down to the 2:08 mark that seemed competitive based on the launch day times back in March, and seemed competitive with those of our competitors also present.
Late in the day Geri took team-mate Dale round for a couple of laps to show him what the GT5 could do, he joked later that was the fastest Dale went round all day! See the complete timing here.
Friday came with two sessions and surprisingly just 20 cars out to test. We were happy enough in the first session, 3rd almost 4/10ths behind McKenna, just 16/1000ths behind Malin, but both McKenna and Malin had only posted two sub-2:08 times while Geri had posted 8, and his first run of 3 had been interrupted by a red flag. In the second session only McKenna and Smalley made it into the 2:07s with Geri back in 5th place with braking issues. We still felt like we would be competitive when it mattered. See the complete timing here.
All images on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography
Saturday qualifying would define the grid for both the Saturday and Sunday races, the latter to be shown live on ITV4. Geri was working with Katie Milner as towing partners and it looked like it was paying of well for both drivers. Geri found himself 3rd for both races, with McKenna and Malin ahead for Saturday, the same drivers in different order on Sunday, while Milner would be 5th in race 1, a track limits excursion on her second fastest lap costing her same in race 2. Geri posted in the 2:07.4s but was over a second adrift of McKenna's best effort, something he couldn't get within 7/10ths of himself, while Geri's two best laps were just 28/1000ths apart.
Race 1 - Saturday (Red Flag):
Still, we had the inside line for race 1 as the grid lined up McKenna, Malin, Geri, Mutch, Milner, Smalley. An unusually poor start from Geri saw him just hold on to 3rd place, having to concentrate more on not letting Milner through (Mutch started slowly) more than attack the front row pair. He would fall back from the lead pair on the first lap, just as he started to claw back the gap, the race was stopped after a 3 car collision on lap 2 left cars strewn across the track. Fin Green had gone off, rejoined the track and the result was damage to the back of his car, Harrison involved but able to continue, Pulling, Hislop and Halstead's cars a mess. The two latter drivers were taken to hospital for checkover, the accident was reckoned to be at around 90mph, but the Ginetta car's strength showed through and there were no serious injuries. The three would not take place from the restart, nor even the Sunday race.
Race 1 - Saturday (Restart):
Geri took advantage of the restart with a much better start, which allowed him to stay with the lead pair, in fact there would be a 4 car train breaking away from the pack with Smalley joining in, even getting ahead of Geri approaching Riches, but then having to back out. Mutch fell by the wayside on lap 1 coming out of Wilson with a broken drive-shaft.
Malin was keeping the pace slow, McKenna climbing all over him with Geri just behind and Smalley climbing all over him. The deadlock changed on lap 3, McKenna slipped inside Malin at Wilson, the latter getting caught out wide for too long. Geri was not quite close enough to follow McKenna through. By the end of lap 3 there was already a 5 second gap back to 5th place wihere Milner was holding off Grady.
McKenna started to edge away, as lap 4 ended he had eked out a 0.9 second gap back to Malin who was only 0.2 ahead of Geri. Smalley was struggling with the pace, losing a couple of tenths that lap. Gaps opened out a bit on lap 5 with McKenna now over a second ahead and half second gaps back to 4th, Smalley now 8 seconds clear of 5th placed Milner.
Geri started to close up on lap 6, being the first (and only) driver into to 2:07s. Due to the delays with the red flag, this was to be a shortened race, 8 laps instead of the original 12, so only two laps to go. Geri was closing in on Malin slowly, the pair closing the gap to McKenna on the penultimate lap, and gapping Smalley.
Geri finally made his move for second place on the final lap at Agostini, rtaking a wide line in, and then cutting back inside. Malin and Geri ran side by side until after Hamilton before the pass was complete. There was not enough time to hunt down leader McKenna, so Geri returned to the podium for the first time since his “lost” win at Donington with second place, but as a measure of his pace, for the 4th time in 5 races he set fastest lap of the race.
Race 2 - Sunday:
Sunday's race saw one of the best races ever according to the TV commentators. Starting 3rd, Geri moved up into second place through the first corner sitting right on Malin's bumper as McKenna seemed to run wide - we would soon find the track was dusty and much slower than on Saturday. The pack raced down to Agostini with Geri piling on the early pressure. Malin ran wide at Hamilton, Geri taking the lead and then having to fight off a challenge at the end of the Bentley straight.
Already there was a five car train; Geri, Malin, Smalley, McKenna and Mutch at the front pulling clear of the others in the 22 car race.
Geri led across the line the first time but his lead was short lived – Malin got a tow along the Bentley straight and was able to pass round the outside going under the Bridge. Geri wasn’t giving up without a fight, and tried to repass round the outside of Coram, then again at Riches, and time and time again Geri would jink left or right, pulling alongside Malin but unable to repass.
At the start of lap 4 Smalley got great drive out of Riches and managed to get inside Geri on the entrance to Wilson, Geri attempted to run round the outside but was eased onto the grass where another place was lost to McKenna, Geri just re-joining the track in front of Mutch.
Geri was throwing everything at the drivers in front, 5 cars circulating with less than a second covering them. Lap 5 and Smalley ran wide at Riches ending up on the grass outside at Wilson. McKenna moved up to second and Nicosia was able to push through into 3rd again. It was short-lived, Smalley moved inside at Palmer and back to 3rd. Geri finally made the move stick at Agostini claiming the inside lone. 3 passes in 3 corners.
The race continued with the front 5 jousting for advantage, in the commentators words, @quot;something's going to happen in the next couple of laps and it will involve Geri who is throwing the kitchen sink at this@quot;.
Sure enough, something happened, and it involved Geri! Geri made his move on lap 10. Closing right up through the Bomb Hole, Geri got his nose alongside McKenna into Coram before the latter could move across and then made the pass on the inside with a bit of paint trading. As they crossed the line with 2 laps to go, Malin was almost a second ahead - would there be time?
Geri responded in spades, finally free of the view of McKenna's rear bumper he set fastest lap of the race (5 times in the last 6 races) and closed the gap to 0.6 with one lap to go. Malin was struggling with tyres and ran wide at Wilson allowing Geri to close right up. Geri was throwing everything at Malin who was now having to defend with everything he had. A wide entrance into Agostini saw Geri set up the classic cut back but Malin just covered it off while Geri had a bit of a tail-wiggle applying power as early as he dared. Geri launched through Williams onto the Bentley straight for the last time, right behind Malin. He pulled out and slowly drove alongside before edging past as the straight was running out. Into the left hander Brundle, Geri moved into the lead even as the two cars clashed just enough to fold back their mirrors, Malin locking up his rears. It looked like Malin might be able to attempt a cutback but Geri got the car under control and was able to cover that off.
Geri took the win pulling clear from the chasing pack to cross the line 0.6 ahead while less than that covered the next 4 places. The weekend's results put Geri back into 3rd place overall although 4th and 5th placed Malin and Mutch are 9 and 2 points behind respectively so there is all to play for at the final round. If not for the washer at Donington debacle we would be leading the championship by 26!
To go with the trophies for 2nd and 1st, Geri also picked up the Sunoco Fastest Ginetta GT5 Driver of the Weekend trophy for the second race weekend running.
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Geri said @quot;that was an awesome race, it was a privilege to race with these guys. It was so close yet we raced hard and fair. I’m looking forwards to the return to Donington, I could have won all three races there last time@quot;.
See the official timing for the weekend here.
See the official race report here.
See the full standings here.