Fresh from a lengthy break built into the Dunlop InterSteps Championship calendar to account for school and college exams, points leader Matt Parry produced a clinical display to be awarded all but one point of a possible maximum at rounds 9-11 at Snetterton.
The Fortec Motorsport driver’s haul belies the increasing international strength in depth within the series, which made him work hard in both qualifying and the weekend’s three races, but ultimately allowed him to stretch his championship advantage as the season heads into its second half.
Saturday morning’s qualifying sessions proved just how closely-matched the InterSteps field can be, with Parry continually swapping places with Fortec team-mates Jack Aitken and Cameron Twynham, as well as Falcon Motorsport’s Liam Venter, before snatching pole position with his very last lap on each occasion. His effort was all the more merited having taken the brave decision to run slicks from the start, despite the track surface still being damp, and netted a valuable four points towards his title bid.
“My recent results led some to suggest that pole would have been a foregone conclusion, but that was never going to be the case,” 18-year old Parry commented, “The drivers in this series are picking up their pace and experience with every outing, and Snetterton proved just how well-matched we are. Fortunately, the decision to start the session on slicks proved to be the right one, as there would have been no time to change from wets and they certainly would not have been quick enough for pole.”
With race one taking place later in the day, the track conditions remained tricky, although drier than they had been for qualifying, but Parry’s task was made easier when Aitken spun out of second place with four laps remaining. To that point, the two Fortec drivers had been running a handful of seconds apart, but the mistake allowed Parry to come home ten seconds clear of eventual runner-up Venter at the chequered flag.
Sunday dawned drier than its predecessor, although cloud cover kept the teams on their toes until the afternoon. The InterSteps drivers were again in early action, with race two of their weekend taking place at around 10am, but no-one caught Parry napping as he once more claimed the lead as the lights went out. This time, however, there was no stopping him on the opening lap, the AirAsia Caterham Driver Development Programme protégé sprinting to a three-second advantage over Aitken.
With a new lap record to his name, the gap continued to grow steadily until the fourth Fortec driver, Matteo Ferrer, spun off, bringing out the safety car and reducing Parry’s hard work to nothing. The field then trundled around at reduced speed until time remained for just one racing lap – at which point Parry took off again, winning by fully three seconds!
The drivers were made to wait for their third and final race, which closed the programme at close to 5pm, but again Parry was in no mood to hang about. Already 1.8secs to the good at the end of lap one, the gap remained constant for a while, before the Cardiff native raised his level by resetting the lap record at 1min 55.11secs, before stretching away from Aitken, who was left to deal with the eager Venter.
Parry’s eventual margin of victory was eight seconds and, along with the bonus for fastest lap, helped net him 102 points from a possible 103, with only title rival Matt Mason’s snatching of the race one fastest lap denying him a perfect weekend. With the MGR driver struggling to recover from a grid penalty hanging over him from Brands Hatch, however, Parry has stretched his championship advantage to 53 points.
“You can’t get much closer than that,” the Welsh youngster said of his weekend tally, “I feel that I’ve really got a handle on this series now, and it’s beginning to show in the standings, as I’ve built a useful advantage at the halfway point of the season. However, it is only the halfway point, and I’m not going to be getting over-confident. Nothing has been decided yet…..
“I’ll be looking to consolidate my performances over the rest of the season, and then look to put the skills I have developed into something quicker next season.”
With the school exam period over, the remainder of the Dunlop InterSteps Championship season comes thick and fast, with the next three rounds taking place at the fastest circuit in the UK, Thruxton, over the weekend of 28-29 July.