‘Dead rubber’ may not be a sporting term commonly associated with motor racing, but provides an appropriate summation for the opening round of the 2016 GP3 Series, even if Matt Parry’s problems ran a little deeper than the series’ latest Pirelli tyres.

The Welshman went into the double-header at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya in confident mood following a positive pre-season testing programme – which included topping the timesheets in Valencia – but openly admits that his weekend began to go downhill in qualifying, after a miscommunication combined with last lap traffic to drop him down the grid order. Throw in a post-session penalty for unintentionally impeding another driver and Parry eventually came to rest in 19th position with a tough task ahead of him in Saturday evening’s feature race.

“I didn’t get to do a run on my third set of tyres in qualifying as we were working on a set-up change and then a miscommunication saw me back off to avoid catching a gaggle of cars on what turned out to be my last lap,” the 22-year old lamented, “It’s unfortunate as I had been as high as third place after my second run, but a lot of drivers made big improvements at the end of the session and that pushed me back down the order.”

Parry set about his race one mission with gusto, making a good start and capitalising on the usual first corner melee to pick up immediate places but, having vaulted himself up to twelfth on the road, he found, along with the majority of the field, that the latest spec tyres did not react as the 2015 rubber had.

“Last year, everyone got used to the tyres dropping in performance and opening up passing opportunities later in the race, and I think we were all expecting the same to happen this time around,” he explained as the top 18 positions stayed largely static through the remainder of the 22-lap event, “With no degradation, however, overtaking proved extremely difficult and we were reduced to playing ‘follow my leader’. I’d made a good start to the race, picking up seven positions on the opening lap alone, but that was it for the rest of the race, which was extremely frustrating with the points just a couple of places in front of me.”

With race one’s result setting the grid for the weekend’s second leg, Parry would start a little further up the grid on Sunday morning, but knew that he would have to make another immediate impact if he was to break into the scoring positions from the outside of row six. A light rain shower before the green flag lap made for tricky grid conditions, however, and the Sport Wales ambassador was unable to make the same sort of progress once the race got underway.

Again running in a pack of cars, Parry was forced to defend as well as trying to find a way to attack those ahead of him, and his attempts to hold onto his position eventually prompted the stewards to assess a ten-second post-race penalty for multiple changes of direction on the main start-finish straight. Although he took the chequered flag in twelfth place, the added time dropped the Koiranen GP driver to an unrepresentative 20th in the final result, leaving him scoreless for the weekend.

“Despite making an okay getaway, we all had the same problem with overtaking as in race one,” Parry confirmed, “Running in the dirty air generated by the cars ahead of me also meant that I often had to lift off the throttle coming onto the main straight, and that gave the drivers behind me a chance to take a look at passing. I think I made my intentions to defend quite clear, but one driver decided to pursue the attempted pass and that resulted in the penalty as the stewards decided I was a little too robust!

“Obviously, this wasn’t the weekend we wanted to open the season with, but it is what it is and we need to move on to round two. I’m grateful that the race two penalty was assessed on the final result and not carried over to Austria, which means I can start with a clean slate and, hopefully, kick-start my campaign with some good points.”

Round two of the 2016 GP3 Series takes place at the Red Bull Ring over the weekend of 1-3 July, but all teams and drivers will benefit from an in-season test during the lengthy hiatus, with a two-day mid-week session at the Austrian circuit over 7-8 June.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.