Matt Parry’s hopes of a happy culmination to his 2016 GP3 Series campaign foundered on another driver’s mistake in the early laps of race one, denying him the chance of defending his championship position.

Heading to the season finale in Abu Dhabi, the Welshman held a slim points advantage in seventh overall, but knew that he would likely need to add to his tally in both of the weekend’s races if he was to fend off those looking to supplant him. Despite having gone well at Yas Marina in the past – both in testing and at 2015’s finale before a puncture dented his podium aspirations – Parry found himself uncharacteristically off the pace in a practice session that saw some unfamiliar names in the top ten, and again in qualifying, despite constant tweaking of the set-up on the #14 Koiranen GP car.

Reverting to a more conventional approach to qualifying strategy, after running out of synch at round eight in Malaysia, had little effect on Parry’s fortunes, and the 22-year old was only able to repeat the 14th position he had posted on the opening day, although the cause was not immediately apparent.

“I was losing six-tenths in the final sector of the lap, but there was no obvious reason for it,” Parry noted, “With Koiranen down to just two cars for this weekend, there was less data for us to compare to, but even looking back over previous visits to the circuit yielded no real indication of any problem. Obviously, starting from row seven was not ideal when I was trying to defend a slim points advantage, but it was just a case of making the best of it.”

Although he survived the early lap skirmishes, and even made up a couple of spots to run twelfth on the road, Parry’s position in the midfield pack eventually caught up with him and, having seen Koiranen team-mate Matevos Isaakyan disappear from his mirrors after a moment of his own, the Welshman was on the receiving end of contact from Russian Konstantin Tereschenko that not only left him with a puncture, but also wishbone damage that precluded a return to the race.

With only three laps on the board and just one car sidelined before him, Parry was condemned to start from the back row of the grid for the season finale on Sunday, making his quest for a top eight finish and any hint of points a tough one. Undaunted, and having avoided the first-lap accident that accounted for erstwhile title contender Alexander Albon, Parry gradually began to make his way through the field, defying a lack of outright pace to rise as high as twelfth – a gain of nine positions in almost as many laps of actual racing – by the time the flag fell on both the race and the 2016 GP3 season.

“I’m not sure what happened with Tereschenko in race one,” he admitted, “I was taking the usual wide line into the hairpin in a bid to keep some life in my rear tyres and the next thing I know there’s contact that ends my race. Not only was it frustrating to be out of the action so early on but, given what transpired in the later laps, points – and even the reverse grid pole – might have been possible. Tereschenko only had minor damage to the nose of his car and finished eighth, so who knows what might have been possible…

“Of course, retiring so early in race one meant I inevitably started from the back in race two but, once the safety car period ended, I was able to pick up a few positions. It was always going to be a tough task to finish in the points, but twelfth was a decent result given where I started from and all the issues that we’ve had this weekend, even if it wasn’t enough for me to hold on to seventh the championship.”

With the drivers immediately behind him in the standings all enjoying more fruitful weekends, Parry slipped a couple of places to end the season ninth overall, a reflection of the misfortune that prevented him from building on a strong mid-season run that saw the #14 Koiranen car mixing with – and beating - the eventual title contenders.

“It was a disappointing end to the season,” Parry confirmed,“but GP3 is a tough championship and you really need everything to be working in your favour if things are to turn out the way you want them. I had some highs and lows this year, including my first win at this level, but ultimately it wasn’t to be.”


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.