Matt Parry made an impressive start to his first international single-seater campaign by claiming multiple pole positions and podium finishes at the opening round of the 2013 Formula Renault NEC series at Hockenheim.
Driving for Fortec Motorsport, the reigning Intersteps champion and Caterham Racing Academy member built on strong pre-season test performances by running at the front through Friday's practice sessions, before claiming pole position for the opening two races of the weekend.
Parry's qualifying display was made more notable by the fact that the 38-car field included several drivers from the Formula Renault Eurocup, and his best times in the second of two sessions that split the field into separate groups proved to be quicker than current McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year Jake Dennis, securing top spot on the grid for the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning races.
Parry made a textbook start from pole in race one, leading comfortably into the first corner before gradually pulling out a lead over the chasing pack. Just as it appeared that the Welshman had the race sewn up, however, disaster struck as his gear selector failed, leaving him vulnerable to those behind. Although reigning Eurocup champion Dennis was able to bridge the gap to the ailing green-and-yellow machine, his attempt to pass failed and left him falling back down the order but, despite defending resolutely, Parry was unable to resist for ever, eventually finishing fourth on the road behind three Eurocup regulars.
“It's such a shame,” the Briton sighed, “Starting from the front of the field after a strong qualifying session, and being able to pull away from such a strong field, I really felt that I was on course to win my first ever Formula Renault race. I felt comfortable and, such was my lead, had just stopped looking in my mirrors when 'bang', I had no gears! Given what happened, however, I'm delighted to have been able to bring the car home in fourth place, and ahead of the other drivers we expect to be regulars in the NEC.”
Although he made a similarly strong start to race two, Parry heeded his team's advice not to mix it with Eurocup runners Dennis and Oliver Rowland and concentrated on gathering as many points as possible towards his NEC campaign. After a brief safety car interlude, the top four pulled away from the rest of the field, before Parry eventually claimed his first Formula Renault podium in third place, posting a faster lap than either of the cars ahead of him.
“I drove well within myself this morning,” Parry insisted, “but I know my supporters at CaterhamF1 will be pleased that I brought the car home in front of Ocon's 'Lotus' and was able to take my first podium.”
With the grid for race three being decided by a reversal of the top six finishers in race one, Parry found himself lining up on the inside of the second row but, despite gaining a place on the opening lap, the focus once again returned to the long game and securing the best haul of points towards his championship ambitions, with the Sport Wales-backed driver happy to take a second podium of the weekend.
“Taking two podium finishes is a great way to get my Formula Renault NEC season underway, particularly given the number of Eurocup drivers racing here this weekend,” Parry concluded, “I was well aware of not getting involved in any unnecessary battles that could have a long-term impact on the year, but think I showed that I could live with the more experienced runners in the field – and that bodes well for the rest of the season.”
Although the championship standings are skewed by the presence of those drivers expected to concentrate on the Eurocup, Parry currently occupies a share of third spot, comfortably ahead of the chasing pack having collected 57 points from the Hockenheim weekend.