MATT BATTLES THE ELEMENTS AT BRANDS HATCH



After successive race weekends where he continually improved his race results, Formula Ford rookie Matthew Parry found rounds 10-12 of the Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain to be an altogether tougher proposition.

Not only was the 17-year old tackling the daunting Brands Hatch GP circuit for the first time – with no testing allowed on the elongated layout before the meeting – but he also faced an expanded field of 23 cars as the cream of the Dutch and Scandinavian series arrived for the first Formula Ford Eurocup event of 2011.

Despite his lack of familiarity with the GP circuit, and defying the fact that pre-race testing was blighted by persistent heavy rain, Parry underlined the progress he has made since graduating to single-seaters as a multiple kart racing champion by posting the third fastest time of the session.

Sadly, any hopes that he may be able to carry that form into qualifying on Saturday morning were quashed by a change in the conditions, with the now dry track forcing the Welsh youngster to relearn his braking points. Although he quickly got to grips with the new requirements, his bid for a competitive grid position was ended by a gear linkage problem that sidelined him at the end of the session, just as the fastest times were being set.

Having become used to starting in the middle of the top ten, lining up 15th, 16th and 19th for the weekend’s three races was a source of frustration for both Parry and the Fluid Motorsport Developments team, particularly with the added unknown of overseas rivals surrounding him on the grid.

Race one of the weekend managed just two laps before the rain returned with a vengeance, but Parry had already begun to make up positions and was running twelfth when the red flag was shown to halt the race and give the drivers a chance to fit more suitable tyres for the now soaking conditions.

With each race run over an 18-minute duration, rather than a set number of laps, the interruption left precious little time for the youngster to continue his progress through the field once the signal was given to restart. With everyone also being cautious, knowing that there were two further races to be run, Parry remained in twelfth place to the flag, although the position was good enough for eighth among the UK championship runners.

Race two, unusually, also took place on Saturday, and similarly started with the undulating circuit completely dry, but Parry’s early progress was again cut short as one of the Dutch series runners failed to note his passing move and took both cars out of the running. Fortunately, neither Parry nor his #5 Pastoral Cymru-backed Van Diemen were seriously hurt in the incident and, with a lunchtime slot on Sunday for race three, were never in doubt for the start.

“Saturday was particularly frustrating,” Parry admitted, “We were really hoping that the rain would continue as all our preparations had been in the wet, but the sun came out and I had to adjust the way I drove the circuit. That, and the gearbox problem, meant that qualifying wasn’t as good as we had hoped, and that had the knock-on effect of making the races difficult. Of course, the rain returned just when we didn’t want it to…..”

On a dry circuit, the Welsh driver wasted no time in improving his position in race three, climbing to 13th by the end of the opening lap, and then gaining another spot next time around. Incredibly, however, the weather provided an almost exact repeat of race one, with heavy rain descending from lap four and again causing the red flag to be shown.

As on Saturday, just a couple of laps were possible once everyone had fitted wet-weather tyres, and there was little chance of anyone making up places with the track surface now treacherous. Parry’s twelfth place, however, translated to seventh when the foreign interlopers were discarded from the result, maintaining his run of strong results from previous meetings.

“Had qualifying been wet, Matt would have had a good chance of qualifying in the top five and, with overtaking at Brands Hatch notoriously difficult, who knows what sort of result he could have achieved in the three races,” Fluid team boss Lindsay Allen noted, “Having said that, he drove sensibly in the conditions in races one and three, and brought home some useful points as well as gaining some valuable experience.”

The Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain now has an eight-week break before returning to action at Zandvoort in Holland in August, but Parry will continue to gain experience by tackling the intervening Eurocup rounds at Spa-Francorchamps and Zolder on back-to-back weekends in mid-July.

 

Article created by Craig Llewellyn.