FIRST GP3 POINTS


Extra time appeared to have been the undoing of Matt Parry as the GP3 Series returned from a six-week hiatus at the Red Bull Ring, but post-race events on Sunday ensured that the Welshman secured his first points of the season.

This year’s extended Saturday race distance proved a couple of laps too long for Parry, as a repeat of earlier hydraulic problems forced him out of a hard-earned ninth place with the chequered flag in sight. The resulting 13th position in the classification then seemed to need a couple of additional laps to overcome in Sunday’s shorter encounter as the Koiranen GP rookie crossed the line just over a tenth shy of eighth place. However, a swathe of post-race penalties accounted for two of the cars ahead of Parry, resulting in him being promoted to seventh some time after the flag.

The Welshman arrived in Austria knowing that he had the ability to mix it with those in the top ten after narrowly missing a scoring debut in Barcelona last month, and signalled his intent by following up a solid twelfth in practice with a stunning qualifying performance that could have been even better than the eventual sixth-fastest time it netted for the opening 24-lap race.

“I wasn’t familiar with the Red Bull Ring before this weekend so used practice to find my way around,” Parry commented, “Twelfth wasn’t too bad considering I wasn’t pushing at all - there was clearly more to come and I showed that in qualifying. With the threat of rain, it was a busy session but, although I managed to find a relatively clear lap, the time could have been even better had I not lost power at turn six. That cost me around three-tenths of a second, which would have put me into the top three…..”

Race one had hardly got underway when the safety car appeared to clear up a three-car accident on the sideline, but Parry found himself in seventh place when the action resumed after a handful of laps. The Sport Wales ambassador was keen to make a move towards the front and set a couple of fastest laps in the early going as he passed Ferrari F1 protégé Antonio Fuoco for sixth, but a hydraulic glitch then saw the #12 machine slip back from the verge of fifth place to run ninth at mid-distance.

Although he was forced to concede another place to Koiranen team-mate Jimmy Eriksson, Parry kept pace with the Swede while maintaining a gap to the group behind, and benefited when the veteran made a mistake two laps from home, running wide at turn one and promoting the Welshman back into ninth. However, exactly a lap later, Parry’s hydraulic problem returned with a vengeance, leaving the Koiranen car stuck in fourth gear and powerless to prevent him sliding back to an unrepresentative 13th place.

“It was frustrating to see my first points finish in GP3 disappear so close to home,” Parry admitted, “I pushed hard on the restart as there were places to be made and I showed that I could make them by passing Fuoco – who went on to finish second – in the first couple of laps. From then on, however, it was a fight to keep position…

“The hydraulic problem first caused me to lose a handful of positions around mid-distance, when I was unable to change down to fourth gear for the last couple of corners and ran wide, but it seemed to have sorted itself after that and I felt confident that I could take something from the race. Unfortunately, after I passed Jimmy, the warning light came on and I was stuck in fourth gear for the whole of the last lap...”


With race one’s result setting the grid for race two, Parry found himself on the inside of row seven as Sunday’s action got underway, and that left him vulnerable to any incident in the middle of the pack. Whilst there was no repeat of Saturday’s start-line accident, the Welshman was forced to avoid a collision at turn one, and weaving through the spinning cars dropped him back down the field.

While a second separate incident removed three obstacles ahead of him, Parry was still running 13th at the end of the first lap, before working closely with Eriksson to move up the order. The pair were still nose-to-tail with six laps to run but, having kept his tyre wear in check, Parry launched a late assault on the points, passing both his team-mate and polesitter Ralf Boschung before pulling alongside Alex Fontana on the run to the line.

Although the initial results showed that he had missed the final scoring spot by a tenth of a second, Parry had put himself into position to benefit when the stewards announced the exclusion of two cars ahead of him, eventually promoting the 21-year old to seventh place and two points.

“Having to take avoiding action at turn one negated any advantage I might have gained from the accident and that made the pursuit of points a little harder,” Parry reflected, “I hadn’t made the best of starts as rebuilding the car overnight changed the clutch bite point and gave me wheelspin off the line, but I had good pace and was careful not to ruin the tyres early on. Once I had got by Jimmy on the start-finish straight, I was able to put my foot down but Fontana proved just out of reach – another few metres and I would have been eighth!

“Having faced up to missing the points by a single place for the second Sunday race in succession, however, it was a surprise to learn that two of the drivers further up the order had been penalised. Although it’s not necessarily the way I would want to score points, it removes the pressure to open my account and I know I can add more from here on in. I’m on home soil next time out, so what better place to start?”


Round three of the 2015 GP3 Series season takes place at Silverstone over the weekend of 3-5 July.

 

Article created by Craig Llewellyn.