MATT DOMINATES AT DONINGTON PARK



Matt Parry claimed the first single-seater victories of his young career in rounds three and four of the Dunlop InterSteps Championship at Donington Park - and was only denied a clean sweep of honours by a bout of over-enthusiasm.

Despite not having the benefit of pre-event testing immediately before the weekend, the AirAsia Caterham Driver Development Programme protégé - now resplendent in green-and-gold overalls to match his Fortec Motorsport-run car - quickly showed his rivals that he meant business after claiming two second places in the opening double-header at Oulton Park in March.

The opening qualifying session saw Parry claim pole position for race one by fully seven-tenths of a second over Finn Lasse Halminen, while the gap grew to a crushing 1.6secs over South Africa’s Liam Venter in the second session. The grid for race three also saw Parry secure pole, this time by virtue of his posting the best second-best time - set on his last lap in Q1 - although his margin of superiority was reduced to a mere six-tenths over championship leader Matt Mason.

“Qualifying was just amazing,” the 18-year old commented, “We would never have expected to lap that much faster than the rest of the field, but it certainly provided a massive confidence boost for the weekend’s three races.”

Parry’s form continued into the opening race on Saturday afternoon and, after opening an immediate six-tenths gap, the Cardiff native gradually extended his advantage until it stood at 17secs after as many laps. With Mason getting through into second place, however, the Fortec driver’s championship gains were limited.

Race two the following morning appeared to be going the same way, with Parry streaking into a 1.5secs lead on the opening lap and slowly extending the margin to six seconds before the safety car appeared and reined him in. Controlling the restart, however, the multiple kart champion gave his rivals no chance to take advantage of the neutralisation, building an immediate five-car gap and completing the remaining two laps with a 1.5secs cushion. Mason, meanwhile, limited the damage with another second place and by snatching a late fastest lap.

While conditions changed dramatically during the lunch break, with heavy rain soaking the circuit, Parry remained confident that he could complete a hat-trick of victories, having shown good pace in wet pre-season testing. However, his enthusiasm appeared to get the better of him at the start, the #1 machine breaking before the lights went out. Despite a vain attempt to appease the stewards by allowing second-placed Mason through into the lead, punishment was inevitable and Parry, who had retaken the lead from his main rival by the end of the lap, was duly called to serve a drive-thru’ penalty that dropped him to seventh on the road.

What followed was a consummate display of wet-weather driving, as the teenager carved his way through the field, claiming three scalps on lap five alone. A series of fastest laps then saw him close on third place and, once that was in his possession, the top two. Having intended to try and preserve his tyres on the drying track, however, the need to charge back into contention had taken the best of Parry’s rubber with a few laps to go, allowing the gap to second place to stabilise before the Fortec driver claimed another fastest lap – and the bonus that went with it – on the final tour.

With Mason claiming three second places over the weekend, Parry’s efforts were not quite enough to lead the championship standings, but a 16-point gap has been trimmed to just five as the series heads for rounds 6-8 at Brands Hatch over 12-13 May.

“I really don’t know what happened at the start of race three,” the Welshman admitted, “I just lost concentration for a moment, and that is something I will learn from. Once I had taken the penalty, I simply got on with overtaking as many people as possible, but ran out of time before I could catch the top two.

“It’s a shame that we were not able to complete a hat-trick of victories after such a good start to the weekend. The Fortec car was the class of the field and I’m sure it would have allowed me to open out a gap in race three had it not been for my mistake. Although we could have taken the points lead today, I am already looking forward to racing at Brands Hatch, where I have a lot of experience from Formula Ford, and trying to repeat the form we showed here at Donington.”

 

Article created by Craig Llewellyn.