Donington Park 22/23 September 2018 - Ginetta GT5 Challenge
The final round of the season, hard to believe we have run through the season so quickly. With an almost insurmountable gap back from Kellett, we did think about not competing in the final round, but we were wary that both Bird and Toth-Jones could mathematically catch us if we didn’t compete, and then there was the shock news that Stoney would not be competing. We were still 67 points back from him in the race for 2nd, it would be a tall order, but not an impossible one.
We were booked in for testing on the Thursday, Geri had never raced on the full GP circuit before and had only done one track day, back in the Fiesta Junior car! So the day would be vital. As it turned out, the weather was wet and windy. Not that this would prove to matter – Geri went out from the pit lane and let people go past him as he moved slowly towards Redgate. His pace didn’t pick up as he came straight back into the pitlane after a slow lap. Another attempt at going out saw him straight back in again. When the team fully investigated they found a bent valve in the engine. It would require a swap back to the engine we used up to Silverstone.
This took all day and despite hopes that we would get out on track, that was Geri’s day over. We managed to book onto a track day on the Friday, but this would not include the Melbourne Loop – the first time Geri would see this at full speed would be in Qualifying. Again, not ideal, but at least we would be able to check the engine was OK?
Geri did a couple of laps and came back in, while the engine seemed to run OK, he was not happy with noises coming from the car. Further investigation led the team to changing the gearbox, and another morning’s testing lost. So we were definitely starting the weekend on the back foot.
As the GT5’s have not raced on the shorter circuit, we didn’t know what a time was. We were running old tyres as we had no new ones left for the race weekend, this would again leave Geri at a disadvantage as we were sure his competitors had managed their allocation better, though in hindsight we are still not sure where we might have saved some from. Geri put in a lot of laps, it was dry again although the forecast for the weekend was not so dry.
All photos on this page courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography
Saturday qualifying turned out to be dry, so it was on with the used slicks. And it soon became apparent that Geri was going to struggle, last time out in a Ginetta Junior Geri was setting purple sectors all over the place, and especially in sector two, half way down Craners up to past McLeans. But not today, Geri just seemed to not be able to carry the speed up the hill and finished the session all the way back in 14th where we were hoping he could still manage top six. Getting the points needed for second would be a big ask from this far back, as would avoiding any carnage that tends to occur further back down the grid.
And it was wet! So back on the wet tyres, the disadvantage of running the older slicks was gone, but Geri had done no wet running so would have to take best guess.
We know Geri does storming starts in the dry, what about in the wet? So far this season they hadn’t gone quite so well, but here he was way back on the 7th row behind Kellett, Bird, Mutch, Quinn, Hadfield, Miracco, Toth-Jones, Milner, O'Brien, Rainbow, Arenham, Hislop and Grady!. Geri got an awesome launch and had already made up 5 places before arriving at Redgate, although Milner and O’Brien got by on turn in as Geri was forced out wide. A stunning move as he drove between Milner and O’Brien saw him back to 9th and chasing Rainbow down Craners.
And the lack of wet running hurt Geri as he arrived at Old Hairpin and quickly realised he wasn’t going to make the apex, running out on to the grass allowing O’Brien to come back through. With a slower run up to McLeans, Geri was vulnerable and sure enough, Arenham came through on the inside before Coppice to push Geri back to 11th, Digby getting a nose in front coming out, but was on the outside at the run to the chicane. Digby tried to go through the chicane side by side with Geri, but had to concede.
Geri had been right back on Arenham's bumper going into the Melbourne loop, but had to follow him across the line at the end of lap 1. Still, 3 places gained in one lap was not too bad. Geri stayed out wide at Redgate hoping for a cutback but couldn't quite make it work, a chase down Craners followed, Geri understandably a little more cautious braking for Old Hairpin which allowed Arenham briefly to open a gap, which had gone before McLeans. A good exit saw Geri pass inside before Coppice and up into 10th place.
Next up would be O'Brien. Geri closed up coming into Melbourne, but too much power going out saw a wiggle and let O'Brien pull away again. With Geri having to defend again from Arenham, O'Brien was 1.5 ahead of Geri as lap 2 ended, with Arenham just two tenths behind. Arenham came steaming down the inside into Redgate but couldn't get turned in, Geri just cut back inside and retook the place - all this was allowing O'Brien to get further away, but Geri was noticeably quicker and had reducxed the gap to 1 seoond by the end of the lap, and down to 1/2 second by the end of lap 4.
That half second became a car length by Redgate, Geri chasing hard now. A good exit out of Old Hairpin coupled with a small wiggle from O'Brien saw Geri drive round the outside at Schwantz and move up into 9th and 1.3 behind 8th placed Quinn. The following lap the gap was down to 0.4, there were just two laps to go, and Geri was closing fast.
Quinn left the door open at Redgate, Geri didn't hesitate and cut straight inside to take 8th place - Rainbow was next up, but the gap was 3.2. Geri took 2 seconds out of that gap over the final two laps, but ran out of time and had to settle for 8th place. Kellett came third behind Bird and Mutch sealing the championship, while Bird's win meant Geri still needed points to guarantee third place, and second would need a pair of decent results.
Starting from 8th place behind Bird, Mutch, Kellett, Hadfield, Miracco, Toth-Jones and Rainbow, the Sunday morning race would be a dry one. Another storming start saw Geri exit Redgate in third place behind Bird and Kellett. Behind Geri there was mayhem, Milner was tipped into a spin, cars collided and many more ran across the gravel in avoidance. With Geri having gained so many places, there was concern that the race might be red flagged and restarted from original positions, but the safety car came out and was able to find a path through Redgate so the race could continue.
From the restart, Geri now had Toth-Jones in close attendance, and another epic battle between the two would take place. Toth-Jones managed to dive inside Geri at Melbourne, but Geri got back in front coming out with a classic cut back move. The following lap Toth-Jones came though on the inside at Schwantz getting 3/4 of the way past as they approached McLeans, but Geri was on the inside. They ran side by side up to Coppice, Geri looked to get the better of Toth-Jones coming out, but once again he was simply outpowered and Toth-Jones was alongside and on the inside for the chicane, Geri having to concede the place. Miracco tried to follow Geri through but Geri shut the door.
There was one lap to go - but Geri couldn't keep up with Toth-Jones and concentrated on staying ahead of Miracco to take 4th place, behind Bird, Kellett and Toth-Jones. That 4th placed had guaranteed Geri would finish at least 3rd in the championship, second was still possible but would require a top two finish in the fnal round - which would be a reverse grid race.
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Ball 10 was drawn which put Geri back to 7th on the grid. Judicials post race 2 would move Geri up to 6th on the grid behind Marshall, Arenham, Hislop, Palmer and Miracco, with Toth-Jones, Kellett and Bird next up as Hadfield was given a grid penalty, but it would surely be a big ask for Geri to make the top two, wouldn’t it?
Geri was now getting predictable, yet another storming start saw him arrive at Redgate in third, dive inside Arenham for second and then he went round the outside of Marshall at Schwantz to take the lead. All of a sudden a top two place was looking on. A big lock up approaching Coppice saw Geri run wide allowing Marshall to repass, but Geri was feeling confident he could pass him again.
And then it all went wrong, at the back Khera hit the sausage kerbs at the chicane and spun right round, the ex-Stoney car being collected by Rainbow at speed severely damaging both cars, and made worse as Dyrdal then collided with the stricken Rainbow. Although the safety car was deployed, the race was quickly red flagged when it was realised that the track was all but closed on the loop, the cars taking a short cut back to the grid.
So Geri would have to do it all again. And not for the want of trying, yet again Geri arrived at Redgate in third but this time Arenham was able to close the door. His continued defending was allowing Marshall to pull clear, but now Geri’s car was struggling on power, many times Geri would line up a pass for the car to be unable to do so.
And moving up through the pack was Kellett, the race was being run to a shortened length due to the restart, but Kellett would have time. With two laps to go Bird dived inside Geri into the Melbourne loop, Kellett then diving inside Bird and causing Geri to be pushed out wide. To add insult to injury, Palmer was able to follow through dropping Geri from 3rd to 6th in one corner. That seoond place was now looking out of reach.
While Kellett would chase down Arenham and then Marshall on the final lap to end his season with a win, Geri was struggling and just managed to regain 5th place on the final corner falling short of the second place required.
See full timing details from TSL here.
See the full standings here.
So we finish 3rd in our first full season as a senior, we had hoped to be a bit closer to Kellett, but it wasn’t to be. We now start the work to get back out on track next year, hopefully moving onwards and upwards