There was a distinct feeling of déjà vu in the Czech Republic for Fortec Motorsport ace Matt Parry as, for the second year running, his championship challenge hit a speed bump at the penultimate round.

Adding to the freak nature of the hiccup, the scoreless Formula Renault Northern European Cup triple-header came a year to the weekend after a similar occurrence interrupted his progress towards the 2012 InterSteps title at Rockingham Motor Speedway. On that occasion, Parry recovered to take the crown with a race to spare at the season finale and, despite three strokes of bad luck at the Autodrom Most, the Briton still carries a significant 75-point advantage into the final round of the year at Zandvoort in October.

A solid day of testing saw Parry top the first session of the weekend ahead of a 35-car field that included a large number of Formula Renault Eurocup frontrunners, and he went on to translate that into an excellent qualifying performance that left him second behind only Formula Renault Eurocup points leader Oliver Rowland.

“After practice, I was pleased with my qualifying time,” Parry said, “Obviously, I was aiming for pole position as I’d already proved competitive against the Eurocup boys at both Hockenheim and the Nurburgring, but Rowland pipped me by just over a tenth…”

With the first race taking place later that day, Parry was confident that he could make a good getaway and secure his place amongst the lead group and, true to his word, held on to third spot as the pack headed into the opening corner. However, having avoided incident at the notorious bottleneck, the #30 machine was slow on the exit of the chicane – the result of its pit-lane speed limiter being activated – and Parry was hit from behind by a Fortec team-mate, putting both out on the spot.

With his 121-point lead reduced by the non-finish, Sport Wales-backed Parry knew that he needed to score in race two on Sunday morning if he was to leave Most with the 90-point advantage required to secure the title. Again, the Welshman made a good getaway but, this time, having avoided contact, the stewards decided that his start was just a little too good and promptly handed down a drive-thru’ penalty that dropped him to the back of the field. Despite having little time to recover, Parry still made up seven places but was left pointless once again.

Crucially, the result of race one had an impact on the grid for the third and final race on Sunday afternoon and meant the green-and-yellow Fortec machine would line up 30th for the finale. Despite being in the heart of the action heading into the first lap, Parry made short work of those around him, quickly claiming 17 positions to move himself within reach of some valuable points, only to find Lady Luck once again turning against him. This time, a puncture undid all his good work, the ensuing pit-stop for a new tyre relegating him to an eventual 26th position at the chequered flag.

“Race one proved to be an eventful half lap,” Parry recalled, “I got a great start to get through turns one and two in third place but, on the exit of the chicane, my pit-lane speed limiter got stuck on, limiting me to 60kph. Once we recovered that, I got hit from behind, putting me into the gravel.

“Race two wasn’t much better, as the stewards decided that I had jumped the start. Having reviewed my onboard video, I think that was a harsh decision because any forward movement was simply the result of loading the clutch, something that a lot of other drivers were doing…

“To then pick up a puncture in the third race was a bitter pill to swallow . Prior to that, I had shown that I was capable of getting myself back into the points, so it was particularly frustrating to post another zero when my rivals were eating into my lead…”

Although Parry’s advantage has been reduced to 75 points ahead of the final weekend of the season, with just 90 points on the table, the recently-appointed BRDC Rising Star still controls his own destiny, but knows he cannot afford a repeat of his Czech nightmare.

“You couldn't have scripted a worse weekend, but I’ve been here before, and know that I just have to put Most behind me and focus on Zandvoort,” Parry concluded, “It’s remarkable how much this event mirrored Rockingham from last season – even down to being on the same weekend – but, hopefully, I've had enough bad luck to last a lifetime and things will go more smoothly in Holland. I’ve still got a handy advantage, and I’ll be doing my utmost to keep it.”

Round seven of the 2013 Formula Renault Northern European Cup, another triple-header event, takes place at Zandvoort in the Netherlands over the weekend of 12-13 October.


Article created by Craig Llewellyn.