Matt Parry underlined his status as one of motorsport’s stars of the future by claiming pole at his first ever street circuit race, and could have added the prestigious Pau Grand Prix to his résumé had it not been for an incident-filled main event.

The 72nd running of the Pau classic, previously a staple on F3000, F2 and World Touring Car calendars, featured the Formula Renault class as its star attraction for 2013, giving Parry another chance to pit his wits against more experienced competitors on the sort of circuit that would set individuals a class apart from their rivals.

Having found his feet during a treacherously wet day of practice on Saturday, Parry upped the ante in Sunday’s qualifying session, learning from a late-night data marathon and producing a consistent set of laps to defy a still damp circuit and post the fastest time of all.

“I was a bit disappointed after free practice, but team really rallied round and I was able to pick up the missing tenths for qualifying,” the 19-year old reported, “Racing on a street circuit was a real shock to the system, as there is absolutely no room for error. To go out there for the first time in wet conditions was so challenging, but I was happy with my performance, particularly to be in front of some quality drivers.”

The timed session, which saw Parry wind up less than a tenth clear of Sud-Am F3 champion Bruno Bonifacio, set the grid for the first of two races over the weekend. The result of that race, in turn, would decide the starting line-up for Monday’s final, meaning that a good result was imperative if the Briton was to stand a chance of landing the prestigious Grand Prix trophy.

Despite the road surface still showing signs of earlier rain, the pole-sitter made the most of the drier line on his side of the circuit to vault into an immediate lead, with Fortec team-mate Jake Dennis also getting the better of Bonifacio. Crossing the line a full second ahead by the end of lap one, Parry continued to pull away from his pursuers at a steady pace, eventually taking the chequered flag over seven seconds to the good.

“Getting a good start was crucial, but I was surprised to be able to pull out such a gap,” the Caterham Racing Academy protégé claimed, “The track will still tricky, with damp patches to be avoided, but I kept it clean and was able to bring home a victory from my first ever street race.”

Day three of the meeting, a public holiday in France, dawned bright and sunny, erasing any concerns the drivers may have had over track conditions. The all-dry surface, however, also put a greater premium on the start, with Parry now lining up alongside Fortec team-mate Dennis ahead of another 20 gruelling laps.

Despite again getting the drop on his rivals, any thoughts Parry may have had of making an early break were interrupted by a first corner accident deeper in the pack that required the intervention of the safety car. At the restart, Dennis was close enough to make a move as the field headed up the hill, but the close confines brought the two Fortec cars into contact, with both spinning across the track.

Fortunately, no serious damage was done to either car but, once the melee was sorted out, Parry found himself at the back of the field once the grid was reset under a red flag. With it all to do just to salvage a podium finish from his otherwise stellar weekend, the Welshman made short work of the cars immediately ahead of him to move comfortably into the top ten – but then had another narrow escape as current Formula Renault Eurocup points leader Matthieu Vaxiviere spun directly in front of the green-and-yellow Fortec machine. Somehow, Parry managed to avoid contact with the Frenchman, but glanced the barrier as he squeezed through a diminishing gap.

Undeterred, the Sport Wales-backed youngster pressed on, and his efforts were rewarded when both Bonifacio and long-time leader Pierre Gasly were called for penalties. Even though the Frenchman rejoined ahead of Parry on the last lap, he was subsequently demoted further, elevating the #2 machine to fifth place overall.

“This wasn’t the result we wanted – or perhaps deserved – after the performance on Saturday, but that’s racing,” Parry admitted afterwards, “The incident with my team-mate was regrettable as we could both have challenged for the win today, but I’ll learn from what happened and use that going forward. I’d like to thank Fortec for giving me the opportunity to race at Pau – which is a fantastic circuit in the mould of Monaco – and hope to be able to repay them by continuing the good work we are currently doing in the Northern European Cup when it visits my home circuit of Silverstone next weekend.”

Parry carries a lead of 61 points over his nearest full-time NEC rival as the third round gets underway on ‘home soil’, at Silverstone, over the weekend of 1-2 June.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.