MATT KEEPS ADVANTAGE AT ASSEN


Matt Parry emerged from the fifth round of the 2013 Formula Renault Northern European Cup with an unchanged 121-point championship advantage after netting an eighth podium finish of the campaign in front of a 100,000-strong crowd at Assen in Holland.

Having built a significant lead in the standings on the back of five race wins over the preceding four rounds, the Caterham Racing Academy protégé knew that there was no point taking unnecessary risks with the second half of the season already underway, but left the tricky Dutch venue – more famous for its MotoGP and World Superbike encounters – with a solid haul of points to ensure that his cushion remains intact ahead of the remaining visits to Most and Zandvoort.

With less than a week having passed since he took win number five at Spa-Francorchamps, Parry arrived at Assen in confident mood, and quickly underlined his form by topping both of Friday’s practice sessions ahead of several Eurocup interlopers. He then posted the second best time in his qualifying group, behind local favourite Steijn Schothorst, on Saturday, to start from the second row of the grid for both the weekend’s races.

“Qualifying just didn’t work out for us,” Parry admitted after both he and his Fortec team-mate Jack Aitken proved unable to repeat their practice form, “We went out a little late in the session and didn’t get into the sort of rhythm you need for Assen. Without that, there wasn’t enough time to produce the lap we needed for the front row….”

The Welshman made a solid start to retain his third place into the opening turn and throughout the first three laps of race one on Saturday but, on lap four, he lost downforce behind the second-place car, ran wide at turn one and was passed by Aitken. With his team-mate soon into second place overall, Parry set his sights on front row starter Dennis Olsen, closing on the Norwegian in the final few laps before just running out of time to make the pass that would have maintained a podium run stretching back to the second race of the season at Hockenheim.

“It’s disappointing to see the run of top three finishes come to an end, but the whole aim of the weekend is to rack up points towards the championship,” Parry insisted, “There were only three-tenths of a second between me and Olsen at the end and, despite finishing fourth, I was still well ahead of Eurocup regulars Mikko Pakari and Andrea Pizzitola, so it was a decent result all round.”

With Saturday night to contemplate his performance, Parry woke determined to return to the podium, but was made to temper his ambition as the drivers around him all made a good start to the race. Having lined up on the outside of row two this time around, that meant running in fourth spot for the first few laps before he was able to repay Aitken with a pass for third place at turn one.

With the leading quartet less spread out than in race one, the Sport Wales-backed driver then made short work of Olsen, passing the Norwegian at the chicane with six laps to go, and giving himself a chance of closing on Schothorst and battling for the win. Once again, however, the clock proved to be against Parry as he came up just 1.7secs shy of his quarry at the end of the 16 laps.

“After the mistake I made in race one, I was determined to be error-free second time around,” the 19-year old admitted, “Despite having one eye on the championship, it was good to pass both Aitken and Olsen, but I wish I’d pushed a little harder in pursuit of Schothorst as he made a mistake on the last lap… I reckon a win might have been possible!”

Although Schothorst took advantage of his local experience to win both races, the Dutchman is not a factor in the battle for the NEC crown, having only contested the opening triple-header before concentrating on his Eurocup commitments. As a result, Parry and Aitken, having accrued similar results in the two Assen races, took home identical tallies for the weekend, ensuring that the margin between them would remain at 121 points heading to the penultimate round next month.

“I went to Assen with the aim of consolidating my advantage in the standings, and that is exactly what I did,” the Welsh ace concluded, “It was nice to get another podium finish, but there is still a job to be done and two more rounds to go.”

Round six of the 2013 Formula Renault Northern European Cup, a triple-header event, takes place at Most in the Czech Republic over the weekend of 30 August – 1 September.

 

Article created by Craig Llewellyn.