Success in the 750 club of Motorsport is a great achievement, but Easter weekend of 2015 saw Essex team Elite Motorsport Engineering break out on the TOCA package, as series newcomer Geri Nicosia took to the wheel of their brightly colour Ginetta G40. With the team and driver making their debut in the highly competitive KICK Start Energy Drink Ginetta Junior Championship, a capacity grid at Brands Hatch set them up for what would be a tough 2015, with driver and team boss chomping at the bit for an opportunity to shine.
In a field of highly talented 14-17 year olds, Geri would have had to use his track and driving experience from the Junior Ford Fiesta series to challenge the series regulars and a few newcomers from karting. Leading the line-up in 2015 as one of the stand out favourites was the 2014 Winter Series champion Jamie Caroline, who was fronting the HHC Motorsport team, backed by Pirtek Racing. The support of BTCC Champion Andrew Jordon would have given the winter champion plenty of knowledge and set up from testing, but this gave the added pressure of having a target on his back. Backing Caroline up at HHC were International series newcomers, with Sophia Floersch from Germany and Patrik Matthiesen from Denmark. Looking back on the 2014 season, a few of the drivers who challenged Jack Mitchell for the title are back, including fourth place finisher Dan Zelos. Backed by JHR Developments, Zelos is surrounded by the biggest number of team mates on the grid, with Billy Monger, Senna Proctor (Team BMR backed) and Esmee Hawkey returning for another year, alongside Rowan Bailey and Sebastian Perez. 2014 team R and J Motorsport were also back in 2015, but saw team owner/driver Jonathan Hadfield run new boys Frank Bird (son of BSB team boss Paul Bird) and Kyle Hornby, alongside 2014 rookie Lewis Brown. Another three teams to watch out for were TOCA regulars was TCR, Tollbar racing and Hillspeed, who were running five cars between them. TCR were fielding the most with three for Matt Chapman, alongside Ginetta Junior Scholarship runner up Cameron Roberts and Karter Dave Wooder. For Tollbar, it was the team with total newcomers, as Tristian Charpentier and Alex Day joined the competitive grid. Meanwhile, Ginetta Junior Champions of past Hillspeed returned with a familiar line up of Harry Mailer and Benjamin Wallace to build on 2014 experiences. Whilst Ginetta Junior Scholarship winner Stuart Middleton joined with Douglas Motorsport, finalists William Tregurtha and William Stacey come to the grid and the package backed by brand new teams, with RCE piloting Tregurtha and Clio Cup/Ford Fiesta team Jam Sport providing a G40 for William Stacey. Last entry on the 2015 grid was independent Ben Green, backed by the family run team SuperGreen Racing.
Rookie’s on Top from Qualifying
With only fifteen minutes in cold, damp conditions to set the fastest time, twenty five drivers took to the Brands Hatch track for qualifying on Saturday afternoon, with the rookies showing the more experienced drivers how it’s done. Before any one though could set a lap time the session was cut short, as entering Paddock Hill Bend; Harry Mailer (Hillspeed) and Alex Day (Tollbar Racing) collided and Day’s G40 stranded in the gravel trap. Both drivers would miss out on the restart, with Frank Bird then stopping at Graham Hill bend. With dramas calming down and session resuming under green flag, most of the drivers would find track space tough throughout, as many of the drivers ran in close packs around the 1.2 mile circuit. Coming out on top in fifteen minutes was Danish rookie, Patrik Matthiesen, who rose to the top of the standings after ten laps with a time of 57.050s. Joining Patrik on the front row was Ginetta Junior Scholarship winner Stuart Middleton, with the two split by 0.083s.
In a session which saw twenty-one drivers covered by less than a second, the rookies had out done championship favourites, with Billy Monger and Senna Proctor taking up row two, from the list of 2014 graduates. Backing up the rookies from the front row, Sophia Floersch and William Stacey headed the next pack of rookies, just ahead of Dan Zelos, who settled for seventh after exceeding track limits and obtaining a penalty. Matt Chapman took eighth for TCR, whilst the surprise was Championship favourite Jamie Caroline in ninth, in the Pirtek liveried sponsored G40, after strong showings in testing. Completing the top ten for the grid was the pace setter from Free Practice, Dave Wooder, who completed a strong showing from championship rookies.
In terms of strong drivers who missed out on a top ten position, series returnees Jonathan Hadfield and Lewis Brown had to take up eleventh and twelfth, even with both drivers being 0.2 seconds adrift from the pole time. In showing how competitive the Ginetta Junior field would be in 2015, the Elite Motorsport G40 of Geri Nicosia came home in fourteenth, 0.495 seconds down on Matthiesen, with a respectable showing since switching from Ford Fiestas and faster than his time set in Free Practice. One problem that Geri faced was that for most of the session, he was in a group of drivers and track space was limited.
Ginetta Junior Championship, Qualifying Top Five Classification:
- Patrik Matthiesen (R) (No.14 – HHC Motorsport) = 57.050s
- Stuart Middleton (R) (No.75 – Douglas Motorsport) = +0.083s
- Billy Monger (No.23 – JHR Developments) = +0.092s
- Senna Proctor (No.66 – Team BMR / JHR Developments) = +0.098s
- Sophia Floersch (R) (No.14 – HHC Motorsport) = +0.109s
Maiden Win for Monger on Saturday
Delays throughout the day and plenty of oil spills beforehand set up the prospect of a thrilling encounter to open the 2015 Ginetta Junior season on Saturday, with twenty-six drivers ready to do battle over ten laps to close the first day at Brands Hatch. As the rookies held the front row, it was the fast starting Billy Monger that allowed for three wide into Paddock Hill Bend. With Matthiesen defending the lead, Senna Proctor broke through from row two, pushing Stuart Middleton down from second to fourth. The four ran nose to tail throughout the opening lap, but things changed at the start of lap two, with Monger using his experience of the G40 to break into the lead at Paddock Hill Bend. Holding off the fight back from the Dane, Monger was able to create a small gap, with Proctor looking feisty in third and forcing Matthiesen into defence driving.
Whilst the top four broke away from the rest, the biggest mover on the opening lap had been Jonathan Hadfield, who progressed from eleventh to seventh, before moving to fifth by the second lap. As a whole group of cars from fifth to tenth ran in a unit, rookies Sophia Floersch and William Stacey climbed back up the order. Within the pack from fifteenth onwards, Dan Zelos and Jamie Caroline were dicing with the rookies, with Geri Nicosia scrapping with Caroline on lap five over twelfth position. Unfortunately for Nicosia, he lost out on his scrap with Caroline and have to settle for twelfth, two up from his starting position. In the closing stages, Nicosia got the better of Matt Chapman, who hassled the flaming yellow G40 to the flag, whilst trying to catch the second TCR Ginetta of Dave Wooder.
Back at the front, the four remained as they were, with Monger keeping Matthiesen at bay; on route to his first ever win in the championship. With the race cut short due to the circuit curfew, Proctor wasn’t able to close on Matthiesen and whilst the Dane took second on his debut, he also picked up his first rookie cup victory. With Proctor bringing home the BMR backed G40 for the last podium spot, rookies Middleton and Floersch completed the top five. Coming home in sixth was the fast starting Jonathan Hadfield, ahead of the newcomer William Stacey and team mate Lewis Brown. Completing the top ten in the season opener was Dan Zelos and Jamie Caroline, who fought back from contact early on, which dropped them both down the order.
Ginetta Junior Championship, Race One Top Five Classification:
- Billy Monger (No.23 – JHR Developments) = 10 Laps = 9:41.244
- Patrik Matthiesen (R) (No.14 – HHC Motorsport) = +0.440s
- Senna Proctor (No.66 – Team BMR / JHR Developments) = +0.946s
- Stuart Middleton (R) (No.75 – Douglas Motorsport) = +1.197s
- Sophia Floersch (R) (No.14 – HHC Motorsport) = +3.949s
A New Day, another Maiden
With the second race of the season taking place on the Sunday in front of a packed crowd, the drivers were faced with far better conditions than Saturday, with the sun shining and the track dry in every corner. With Billy Monger and Patrik Matthiesen lining up on row one, a perfect start from the race one winner looked to have set up Monger to do a double, but disaster towards the rear of the field for team mates Esmee Hawkey and Rowan Bailey at Paddock Hill Bend brought out the red flag.
Once the track was cleared for the restart, Billy Monger repeated his first attempt by jumping clear of Matthiesen into turn one, who lost second moments later to the chasing Senna Proctor. Whilst Monger created a gap at the front, which was nearly one and a half seconds by lap three, the driver making progress was Jamie Caroline. From row five, Caroline climbed up the order, before taking Stuart Middleton for fourth on lap three, when the rookie was forced wide on the exit of Druids and fell way down the order. Once ahead of Middleton, Caroline turned his attentions to Matthiesen, before a spin for Dave Wooder at Paddock Hill Bend brought out the safety car on lap six.
When the safety car withdrew and left two laps on the lap chart, Caroline chased down the leading two, snatching second from Proctor on the penultimate lap. With Monger’s lead dropped down to half a second, this set up a thrilling last lap. With the two entering Clearways bumper to bumper, a mistake by Monger dragged the No.23 G40 wide and opened a door for Caroline. As Caroline dived for the gap, the door was shut and a collision was unavoidable. As Caroline’s Ginetta forced Monger towards the gravel trap, Senna Proctor darted up the inside to record a maiden victory in the Ginetta Junior Championship. Caroline recovered to take second whilst Monger plummeted down the order to fourteenth. As Patrik Matthiesen recorded his second podium and his second rookie victory, R&J Motorsport’s Lewis Brown took a career best in fourth, 0.700s ahead of Dan Zelos. With rookies Will Tregurtha and Kyle Hornby next up in sixth and seventh, Elite Motorsport’s Geri Nicosia came home in eighth, to complete his first top ten result of the year, unfortunately just missing out on the rookie podium by 0.234 seconds. Geri had a far better race than the first from twelfth on the grid, climbing to eighth as early as the third lap and remaining there right to the flag. Behind in ninth was Cameron Roberts, whilst a line of five rookies was finished off with William Stacey in tenth.
Ginetta Junior Championship, Race Two Top Five Classification:
- Senna Proctor (No.66 – Team BMR / JHR Developments) = 11 Laps = 11:27.857s
- Jamie Caroline (No.38 – HHC Motorsport) = +0.110s
- Patrik Matthiesen (R) (No.14 – HHC Motorsport) = +0.185s
- Lewis Brown (No.21 – R&J Motorsport) = +0.361s
- Dan Zelos (No.45 – JHR Developments) = +1.061s
With the first race weekend of the season seeing plenty of maidens in the Ginetta Junior Championship, this meant that Team BMR’s backed Senna Proctor led the way on sixty-one points, as the championship would resume at Donington Park on the 18th and 19th April 2015. With one win and a third, Proctor held a slender three point lead over rookie Patrik Matthiesen, with Caroline and Monger a further sixteen back and tied in third after their collision in race two.
In terms of the Rookie Cup Championship, Matthiesen holds the championship lead over 2014 Scholarship winner Stuart Middleton, with William Stacey in third.
For Elite Motorsport Engineering, Geri Nicosia ended the weekend lying eleven in the standings on twenty-three points, behind fellow rookies Tregurtha and Stacey. There were a lot of positives to take away from the weekend after a last minute deal and Geri was confident ahead of Donington Park that the car and the team were surely heading in the right direction.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs