Matt Parry’s bid for a third consecutive GP3 Series podium came unstuck at Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend, but the Koiranen GP driver was simply relieved to have emerged unscathed from a dramatic race two accident.

Having added a top three finish at the Hungaroring to the one he secured on home soil at Silverstone, Parry arrived in the Ardennes in confident mood, knowing that he had always performed well at the Belgian Grand Prix venue. His weekend began in solid fashion with sixth place in Friday evening’s practice session, and the Sport Wales ambassador went into qualifying knowing that he could be a contender for the front row of the grid.

Having posted the fastest time through sector one of the famous Spa layout, and with a good record in sector two, Parry was on course for a possible pole position when he came across a slower car towards the end of the lap. Having to slow cost the 21-year old his shot as, with his tyres now past their peak, he had to battle for every fraction of a second on his way to an eventual seventh on the grid.

“I know that I could have been in the hunt for pole,” Parry insisted, “It’s such a long lap here that every tenth counts, but I had aced sector one and was looking good on the split times. Then I came across [Marvin] Kirchhofer and that ruined the lap. Ironically, although he was penalised, he only dropped to sixth on the grid, so it didn’t help me at all…”

The inside of row four was not a complete disaster for the Welshman, who has shown that he is capable of making up places once racing starts, but his weekend turned completely as the lights went out for the start of race one late on Saturday afternoon. While Koiranen team-mate Jimmy Eriksson jumped the start behind him, Parry went nowhere as his car stalled and left him momentarily stranded on the grid. Fortunately, nobody made contact with the #12 machine, but the former McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year was on the back foot thereafter.

“The stall was my fault,” Parry admitted, “We’ve been trying different things to try and make my starts a bit better, and I just got it wrong this time. Trying to ‘pre-load’ in a bid for a fast getaway actually welded the clutch together and cut the engine, so I went nowhere.”

Although he eventually got going, Parry was now mired deeper in the pack, but began to slowly make up the lost ground in search not only of points but also the potential of the reverse grid pole for race two on Sunday. Sadly his progress would be cut short after just a few laps as, in taking evading action to avoid a slowing car on the Kemmel Straight, the Koiranen car was forced onto the grass, which promptly blocked its radiator and caused terminal overheating.

“Kevin Ceccon had suffered a puncture and was going very slowly on the straight, but the first I knew about it was when the pack parted to go around him,” Parry revealed, “There was very little room to manoeuvre and I had to take to the verge on the left, but the grass was very long and the bottom of my car acted more like a lawnmower, with the cut grass going straight into the sidepods….”

Although he made it back to the pits, Parry’s race was run and the early retirement meant that he would be forced to start Sunday’s race from the penultimate row of the 23-car grid. With his car repaired overnight, there was no repeat of the start-line problems he suffered on Saturday, and Parry was able to focus on making up places in the early laps. Having climbed to within touching distance of the points, however, the Welshman would have his efforts halted in frightening fashion.

“I was making up good ground without really having to push, which was good as I was trying to save my tyres for later in the race,” Parry reported, “I was nearly into the points when, again, there was an incident ahead of me – and this time there was no taking avoiding action as [Aleksander] Bosak’s wheel came back across the track and hit the front of my car, taking off my left front wheel and sending me into the wall.

“Fortunately, I was able to walk away from the accident, but it could have been so much worse. I was lucky that Bosak’s wheel remained on the ground, spinning like a curling stone rather than bouncing across the road. With similar accidents that happened this weekend, and others in the past, I know the outcome could have been very different.”

The accident ensured that Parry went home pointless for the first time since round one in Barcelona, which was especially frustrating for the Briton given the efforts of his Koiranen team.

“I had a very good car in both races, and would definitely have been back in the points on Sunday had it not been for the accident,” he maintained, “Spa is a decent track for overtaking and I was running with guys who scored points at the time I was taken out, so I reckon sixth or seventh was achievable, even though I started at the back of the field.

“We’ll just try and put this behind us and move on to Monza, which is a circuit I’ve not been to before. I’ve got a simulator session this week, but I’ve also got to work on my starts and find a system that suits me. Once we get that sorted, I know that I’ll be a threat at every round….”

Round six of the 2015 GP3 Series season takes place at the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza over the weekend of 4-6 September.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.