Matt Parry came within a whisker of claiming points on his first weekend of GP3 Series competition, finishing ninth in race two at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

The Koiranen GP newcomer made a rapid start to the Sunday morning event, climbing from 13th on the grid to latch onto the tail of the main points group, chasing hard after Saturday polesitter Luca Ghiotto from lap two. Clearly quicker than the more experienced Italian through the opening sectors of the lap, however, Parry couldn’t quite get close enough through the final chicane to make a move down the main straight, although he remained in Ghiotto’s mirrors until a couple of laps from home.

“Starting where I did, and with the race only being 17 laps, I knew I had to make up places early on,” Parry commented, “I didn’t have the best of starts, but I was able to make some moves in the first lap or two, especially under braking at turn ten. I had to be careful with traction at the end of the lap, however, which is why I wasn’t able to get quite close enough to Ghiotto. It was frustrating because I know that, if I had been able to pass him, I would have been able to put pressure on [Esteban] Ocon for seventh….”

Having lapped in a tightly-bunched midfield group in Friday’s lone practice session, the Welshman placed a disappointed 16th in Saturday’s early morning qualifying session, unable to improve when yellow flags prevented faster times from being set at the end of half-hour. Despite that, Parry was only four-tenths of a second from a spot in the top ten, which would at least have seen him start in a point-scoring position.

“We weren’t trying for a fast time in practice as we had to work on the set-up and bed in some brakes, but qualifying showed the small margins on which your grid position can depend,” he admitted, “The time I set on my first set of tyres was probably good enough for P8, but I made a small mistake and then got caught up in traffic, which probably cost me as much as seven-tenths. You usually benefit from running a second set of tyres later in the session, and everything was looking good until I hit one of the kerbs in sector two, which wrecked that lap. I backed off and went again, but then the yellow flags came out, so I had to rely on my first lap time which, by then, had been bettered by those getting a clean second run.”

While Parry’s starting position for the opening race of the weekend could have left him vulnerable to one of Barcelona’s familiar first corner incidents, the GP3 field proved well-behaved, leaving him to consolidate his place in the pack. The succession of quick corners at the home of the Spanish Grand Prix meant that passing opportunities were rare, but the Formula Renault graduate gained a couple of spots in the early stages before his progress was suspended by the introduction of a safety car.

The resumption, after five laps, saw Parry still needing a handful of places to break into the points, but being pushed wide while passing Alex Fontana allowed Kevin Ceccon to overtake both drivers before overheating tyres caused the Welshman to struggle with the balance of the #12 machine. As a result, being passed at the chicane forced an error at the final corner, which saw the rear of the Sport Wales-backed Koiranen car step out over the kerb, dropping Parry back down the order.

With the extended 40-minute race duration and the series’ choice of medium compound Pirellis, tyres became an issue for many in the closing laps, but Parry managed his rubber better than most to climb back up the order and eventually cross the line 14th overall. A post-race penalty for one of the drivers ahead of him later promoted the 21-year old to 13th, earning a spot on the inside of row seven for Sunday’s event.

“I just got too impatient,” Parry said of his pursuit of Fontana, “I had a pretty good start and made up a few places, but then got stuck behind him for a few laps until the safety car came out. While that was good for us in as far as it closed the field up, I was too eager to get past him at the restart and ran wide at turn ten, which allowed Ceccon to get through.

“Although the tyres went off slightly after that, and I had no traction at the final corner when I went wide and touched the gravel, I managed to get them back while a lot of other drivers began to struggle. That allowed me to pick up places as the car felt really strong in the closing laps, but Ceccon went on to finish seventh, which just shows where we could have ended up….”

Parry left the Circuit de Catalunya eleventh in the standings, the highest-placed driver without a point thanks to his narrow miss in race two, but now has a lengthy wait until round two of the season, which takes place at the Red Bull Ring in Austria after the F1 world championship – which GP3 supports throughout Europe – has completed its race weekends in Monaco and Canada.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.