DRIVER DIARY: HAPPY OLD YEAR

They say that time flies when you’re having fun and, as I quite enjoyed 2012, I’m not surprised it seemed to pass by quite as quickly as it did.

That’s my excuse for not having posted a diary update for a while – and I’m sticking to it!

As you may recall, the last time I wrote, I had just moved into the lead of the InterSteps standings and was enjoying a break from the action while the series accounted for ‘exam season’. My only regret at that point was not having been able to complete a clean sweep of a race weekend…

That was put right at Snetterton where, with the Fortec Mygale running perfectly, I was able to finally win all three races on offer. Again, the weekend wasn’t quite complete, as missing one of the bonus points for fastest lap meant that I missed the ultimate 103-point haul, but perhaps asking for that would have been a little greedy!

It was the same story at Pembrey a couple of rounds later, where another three wins from three races went a long way to helping me break Jake Dennis’ series records for points, podiums and race wins, but I wouldn’t count either hat-trick as the high point of the campaign.

Instead, I think that round two at Donington Park was more important, as winning there confirmed that we had a decent package. Having featured at the front of the pack during testing, the opening round at Oulton Park – where I had to settle for second both times – was disappointing, as we had hoped to win at least one race. Breaking through at Donington, therefore, was good for the confidence and set us up for the rest of the year.

Of course, the low point had to be Rockingham, where we could have wrapped up the title with a round to spare, but instead saw our points lead slashed as we recorded our first – and only – DNFs of the year. Fortunately, we were back on track at Croft and able to secure the title with a win in race two, which was both a relief and showed Caterham that I could win championships in cars as well as karts.

InterSteps proved to be a good introduction to ‘slicks and wings’ racing, and it is sad to hear that Martin Phaff has decided to bring the series to a close owing to competition for drivers from a number of similar championships. I guess, however, that I will remain the reigning InterSteps champion for some time….

Winning the title meant that I would be moving on to another series for 2013, and the unanimous choice appears to be Formula Renault. With no UK championship to speak of, that meant considering one of the two European series, and it looks likely that I will be racing in the Northern European Championship (NEC) this season.

I have already been piling up the testing miles, with two days each at Barcelona, Silverstone, Zandvoort, Spa-Francorchamps and Valencia, and another at Donington as I get used to the Fortec car that proved so successful in 2012. I haven’t signed a deal for this year at the time of writing, but being able to remain with Fortec and benefit from the team’s experience in FRenault is a major advantage.

The car is physically easier to drive than the InterSteps, particularly with the paddleshift, but it is mentally tougher to put together a good lap, as the car is a lot less forgiving. I don’t remember spinning the InterSteps machine at all last year, but finding the limit in the FRenault is a different story – the slightest slide means that you lose vital time or, worse still, end up facing the wrong way!

Of course, the FRenault is a quicker car – the lap record at Donington Park, for example is six seconds faster than my best in the InterSteps – and getting every last drop out of it will be crucial in the NEC, which is highly competitive throughout its big grids. As a result, testing has focused a lot on qualifying simulations, and trying to catch the tyres at their peak, which can sometimes be a window of just one lap. Where a new set of tyres in InterSteps may have been worth half a second, in FRenault the difference can be as much as two whole seconds, so, while we have also been putting in some long runs, you can understand the need to perfect qualifying technique.

Hopefully, I’ll have some news to bring you in the next few weeks but, until then, I’ll just keep working on my preparation for the season ahead.

Until next time,

Matt

Follow me on Twitter (@Mattparryracing) and Facebook to keep up with the latest developments in 2013….

 

Article created by Craig Llewellyn.