Formula Renault Northern European Cup points leader Matt Parry produced a battling performance on his debut in the senior Eurocup competition, overcoming early problems to record a top seven finish at Paul Ricard in the south of France.

Parry, who has one round of the NEC remaining on his 2013 schedule, was making a scheduled ‘guest’ appearance in the Eurocup, getting a taste of the championship he intends to step up to next season, but the Caterham Racing Academy prospect found his weekend getting off to a difficult start as the stewards deemed that he had already enjoyed too many test days and barred him from the opening practice session.

Having never been to Paul Ricard before, having to sit out was something of a double whammy, leaving Parry with just 20 minutes to learn the circuit and begin to hone his Fortec Motorsport entry ahead of qualifying and the weekend’s two races. Despite that, however, he proved to be less than a second off the pace in the remaining session, which boded well for the rest of the weekend, even if the competitive nature of the series meant that he was only 26th on the timesheets.

Qualifying for race one proved just as frustrating for the Welshman as the gap to the frontrunners grew, rather than shrinking as expected. Posting only the 16th best lap in his group – and therefore lining up an unfamiliar 32nd on the large grid – prompted questions to be raised about the performance of his engine and, after a successful appeal, the stewards allowed the Fortec team to replace the powerplant before Sunday’s action.

Having seen his mechanics work until four in the morning, Parry was determined to reward their efforts with a strong showing and, belying the fact that passing is usually at a premium in the Eurocup, picked up no fewer than 17 positions in a credible fightback performance.

“Right from the start of practice, I had the feeling that the engine wasn’t fully on song, so it was good to find that the stewards agreed,” the Sport Wales ambassador noted, “Once the team had made the change, I was much closer to the pace, and finishing 15th – while still not where I wanted to be – showed that my qualifying performance hadn’t been representative of my true potential.”

With rain arriving over the Mediterranean, qualifying for race two took place in tricky conditions, but Parry was disappointed to find himself only eighth in his group – until he realised the current Eurocup points leader Oliver Rowland was two places further back….

Although the rain had eased by the time the cars lined up on the grid, the drivers were still faced with the dilemma of fitting slicks or wets to deal with the unpredictable track conditions, and Parry opted for the former, hoping that the surface would dry out sufficiently to allow him to make forward progress.

Although the conditions did not improve as quickly as expected, and were still not 100 per cent dry by the chequered flag, Parry was still able to pick up places, keeping the #50 Fortec machine on the road as he moved from 15th to seventh.

“I came to Paul Ricard with an element of apprehension as it was a new track to me, and I had not had the benefit of testing there before the weekend,” he reflected, “In a series a closely-fought as the Eurocup, every tenth is critical, so I was at something of a disadvantage, particularly when I was prevented from taking part in first practice.

“Although I was vilified to see that the original engine was down on power, I was still having to come from behind in both races, but had the confidence to be able to battle for position each time. With more practice, I know that I would have been up there with the fastest group – and, with one more lap in race two, I reckon I could have finished fourth as the cars immediately ahead of me were all on wets….

“Although the results were not what we had been hoping for, I am already looking forward to stepping up to the Eurocup on a full-time basis next season.”

While round seven of the 2013 Formula Renault NEC, at Zandvoort in Holland, remains Parry’s main focus, the Briton will take advantage of an invitation to join the Korainen GP team for an outing in the Italian-based ALPS series to continue his preparation for the 12-13 October title decider.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.