Last Friday saw the official Protyre Formula Renault Championship test day prior to Round 5 at Rockingham. Five half hour sessions gave a glimpse of the weekend to come with close, competitive times. One of the sessions for Matteo and MGR was devoted to Qualifying simulation, which Matteo was happy with and felt that he had found a reasonably good setup ahead of the weekend.
On Saturday, in the first of the two Qualifying sessions, Matteo was quickest for the majority of the session, however in the dying moments he dropped to sixth, giving him that place for Race 1. His consistent quick laps meant that his second fastest time would see him start fifth for Race 2.
In the second of the Qualifying sessions to decide the Race 3 grid, changes were made to the set up, which didn't work out as hoped and Matteo only managed the ninth fastest time to start Race 3.
Starting sixth place in Race 1, Matteo made a good start, but made contact with Pietro Fittipaldi as the bunched pack headed into the first corner, resulting in Matteo losing his left front wing end-plate. Matteo was forced to adapt to a lot of understeer over the next few laps, but his race soon came to an end with an unrelated suspension failure.
In Race 2 on Sunday, Matteo made a reasonable start from fifth on the grid. He was able to maintain his grid position as the field scrambled into turn one, overtaking teammate Jorge Cervallos around the outside. Matteo settled in to shadow the leaders and was showing good race pace, but an aggressive move by Martin Cao at turn 8 resulted in heavy contact, putting Matteo out of the race with rear suspension damage.
Determined to get a result in the final race of the weekend, Matteo made a storming start in Race 3 from his ninth place grid position, avoiding collisions at turn one, but was then delayed by further incidents at turn two, allowing Pietro Fittipaldi and Joe Ghanem to gain the advantage and sneak through. The collisions on the first lap brought about a safety car period. At the restart Matteo immediately attacked Fittipaldi under brakes for Turn 1 and was able to exit the corner in sixth place. Matteo quickly closed on Ghanem, and made a determined move to out-brake him on the outside into turn one, forcing Ghanem to take a tight defensive line. Matteo then cut back to the inside on exit, forcing Ghanem to the inside for the entry to Turn 2, which pressured the M-Tech driver to run wide on the exit. This allowed Matteo to get alongside between turns two and three and move ahead into Turn 3. Now in fifth position, Matteo sprinted away, catching the leaders by six tenths on the next lap, setting fastest lap of the race in the process. Just as Matteo was lining up for an attack on team-mate Cevallos, race leader, Weiron Tan was forced into retirement with engine failure causing another safety car period.
On the second safety car restart, Matteo came under attack from Ghanem under brakes for turn one and lost a place. Matteo, had much better pace than Ghanem and was on his tail to retake the position when the race was red flagged before he had the opportunity to make his move.
Allinsport's Peter Collins commented; "A very challenging weekend and a lot of hard work finally saw Matteo show his speed and attacking spirit in the third race. A clear sign of untapped talent."
Allinsport and Matteo would like to congratulate Mark Godwin Racing teammate Chris Middlehurst on clinching the Protyre Formula Renault Championship at Rockingham and MGR on their maiden Championship. Well deserved wins a reward for their hard work!
Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography