The resumption of the 2016 GP3 Series carried a definite sense of deja vu for Matt Parry as he was the hapless victim of accidents in both legs of the double-header at Spa-Francorchamps.

The iconic Belgian circuit – one of the Welshman’s absolute favourites – was the scene of his only double DNF in 2015, when a first race overheating issue left him vulnerable to a mid-pack melee in race two, and fate dealt him a similar hand this time around to undo another solid qualifying performance in the #14 Koiranen GP entry.

Determined to build on a strong end to the first half of the schedule, which produced a maiden GP3 win in Hungary and a follow-up podium in Germany, Parry started the Spa weekend in fine fashion, vaulting to the top of the timesheets in Friday practice before eventually being pipped by just 0.014secs at the end of the 45-minute session. Confident in the set-up on the Koiranen car, Parry was confident of a similar showing in qualifying the following morning, but admitted to not quite hooking up as good a lap as he was pushed back to sixth on the grid.

“I made a complete mess of the Bus Stop chicane right at the end of the lap,” Parry admitted, “The rest of the lap wasn’t too bad but one mistake cost me the tenths that might have put me another row or two up the grid. It’s a long lap at Spa, so it’s particularly galling to see the effort go to waste that close to the end, especially after what we’d achieved in practice.”

Despite his position in the upper reaches of the grid, the tight nature of the first corner at Spa meant that Parry remained in the realm of potential disaster on the opening lap and so it proved. A reasonable start allowed the 22-year old to pick up a couple of positions as he maintained a wide line into the La Source hairpin. Keen not to run wide and incur a possible penalty, the Sport Wales ambassador appeared to have safely negotiated the corner when two cars to the inside of him ran wide, making contact with the #14 and forcing it into retirement with damage to its right-front corner.

“I was probably unlucky to be involved,” a frustrated Parry said afterwards, “Being on the outside, I felt that I gave racing room to those inside me, but didn't get the same respect on the exit of the corner and basically got caught up in someone else's accident. I don't know what they were thinking, especially refusing to back off the throttle in the middle of the collision. Secondary contact only added insult to injury - or the other way around as it only added to the damage on my car.

"It's particularly frustrating as, despite not qualifying as high as I could have, we felt that there was good race pace in the car and we could easily have done what a couple of others did and make up places and fight for the podium, especially as we expected the ART cars to struggle with their tyres. It was good points lost.”

While the stewards decided that there was no blame to be aportioned in the incident, Parry’s early retirement meant that he would line up on the back row of the grid for race two. With little to lose, his aim was to make up as many places as possible, while hoping that the rate of attrition ahead might produce an unexpected return to the points. Opting for an inside line into the first corner, the former Formula Renault champion made it through unscathed and, by the end of lap two, had picked off enough rivals to be lying in 15th position. The Koiranen car was similarly placed at the end of an early safety car period but would go little further as an opportunistic move by one of the drivers behind led to contact that sent Parry hard into the barriers at the end of the fast Kemmel straight.

“I don't know what to say without swearing!” Parry fumed, “It was very disappointing to be taken out by another relatively stupid accident, especially when I was making progress without taking any unnecessary risks. Unfortunately, I got caught up behind the car ahead of me on the restart and that slowed my entry to Eau Rouge and allowed another car to get alongside me. I gave him racing room but I don't know if he made a mistake or was just trying to slow my entry onto the straight because he seemed to back off and I was alongside him going into the chicane.

"After that, he braked too late and didn't make the corner, so I was ahead of him when he came back onto the track off the kerbs - straight into the side of my car! The irony is that we didn't need to be racing each other that early in the race. We both had the pace to make up places through the midfield, and his move was a desperate one that didn't need to be made.”

Parry’s misfortune in Belgium saw him slip one place in the overall championship standings, and he will head to the final European round of the season, at Monza, sitting fifth in the table.

"Unfortunately, this weekend has probably ended any hope I had of challenging for the title, and maybe even the top three overall," Parry admitted, "I'm not going to give up, however, and am glad that it's only a short week before we are back on track in Italy. Hopefully, the racing will be cleaner there and I can get back to chasing points and podiums."

Round seven of the 2016 GP3 Series takes place in support of the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Mazionale di Monza over the weekend of 2-4 August.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.