Matthew Parry enhanced his status as one of Britain’s finest karting talents by claiming a podium finish at the prestigious Rotax World Finals at Sharm El Sheikh’s Ghibli Raceway.

Amid the spectacle of 216 drivers representing 60 countries in the most international event on the kart racing calendar, the new Formula Kart Stars champion produced an impressive week-long display to claim second place in the 20-lap final, ending the event as the best-placed British driver in the Junior Rotax class.

Despite having arrived in Egypt at least a day after his rivals, courtesy of an appearance at the annual Autosport Awards to receive recognition for his Formula Kart Stars title, Parry was immediately on the pace, topping the opening practice session and repeating the feat second time around to establish himself among the pre-race favourites.

When the single qualifying session came around, however, there was much head-scratching in the Parry camp, as the switch to new tyres failed to produce the expected gain in lap time. While his rivals all picked up around half a second courtesy of the fresh rubber, Parry found himself going just a couple of tenths quicker and down in 13th position overall. With each driver running identical chassis and engines, suspicion naturally fell on the tyres, but the 15-year could not help but be disappointed after his earlier domination.

“We just don’t know why we couldn’t get any more speed out of the kart on the new tyres,” the 15-year old admitted, “I didn’t have any problems with traffic that could have accounted for the difference between my times and the other frontrunners, but the tyre band was still showing on our front tyres at the end of the session, so there may have been something amiss there.”

The warm-up session that preceded the first of the all-important qualifying heats saw Parry back in the top four in his group, while race one yielded third place to restore some of his earlier confidence. However, a melee in the Briton’s second outing saw him having to settle for seventh, and left a tricky third race to be negotiated on Friday.

Again starting from down the order, Parry knew that he would have to pull out all the stops to secure a direct route to the pre-final and avoid the pitfalls of the repecharge but, buoyed by another top three appearance in the morning warm-up, the Bury St Edmunds resident produced the sort of passing performance that has become his trademark, progressing smoothly up the order before eventually claiming another third place.

Of the 72 drivers in each class, only the top 28 would make it directly into the final stages, with the top six from the repecharge surviving at the second attempt, leaving some 38 with little to do but kick their heels from Friday afternoon. Fortunately, the results over his three qualifying races were good enough for Parry to claim sixth overall on the Junior Rotax ranking, earning him a spot on row three of the pre-final.

Happy to have made the cut after the frustrations of timed qualifying, Parry was able to start afresh on Saturday and, armed with another set of new tyres, showed just what he was capable of by carving his way to the front of the field. Having tailed UK rival Ed Brand in the morning warm-up, Parry was able to turn the tables in the race, claiming the lead on lap seven of twelve and holding on for the remainder to earn himself pole position for the main event.

Having thrown down the gauntlet, just 20 laps remained between Parry and the world title but, once the drivers’ parade had seen the 60 competing countries display their flags for one last time, a poor getaway again left him with work to do.

While Brand snatched the lead from the outside of row one, the #56 kart dropped to fifth by the end of the opening lap, but Parry refused to be downhearted. Quickly moving to the head of the chasing pack, he set about closing the gap to the top two, where Brand was being harried by Japan’s Ukyo Sasahara. As the leaders squabbled, Parry homed in, setting up an exciting finish for the large crowd.

Sasahara moved to the front with two laps to run, but could not break the tow until Parry finally caught Brand and their battle allowed a gap to materialise. The Britons continued to fight over second into the penultimate lap, when Parry slipped through, but, despite shaving time from the deficit to Sasahara, there simply wasn’t enough time for the #56 to completely bridge the gap, Parry eventually coming home 1.4secs behind the new world champion.

“I can’t deny that I am pleased with second place in such a major event,” the youngster commented after the podium celebrations, “but I have to admit that I really thought I could have won, so there is a tinge of disappointment.

“However, to have achieved this result where the use of standard engines and chassis provided a level playing field gives me a great deal of confidence, and is something that I will use as I move onwards and upwards.”

Parry has still to make a decision on where he will be racing in 2010, with GCSE exams expected to play a major role in shaping his year. However, he has received several interesting offers, both in karting and, after a promising maiden Formula Ford test, to move up to single-seaters.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.