Matt Mason is 'satisfied' after another solid weekend in the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship, which saw the MGR Motorsport driver take two strong points finishes in Rounds Three and Four at Brands Hatch, making him the top rookie in the 2011 championship standings.
With limited testing at the Kent circuit prior to the weekend, Mason took full advantage of the pre-event testing on Friday to get more track time in the car around the tricky Indy layout. After a slow start, the Nottingham based teenager began posting times putting him at the top of the standings.
The Nottingham Urology Group and Care Fertility backed driver commented: “Overall as a day, Friday testing was really good, though started off not so well. Last time we were here we had a bit of an incident at one of the corners and that knocked my confidence a bit. I was building on that over Friday and by the last session we were joint fastest with Josh Webster, which was good.”
With Brands Hatch being renowned as a circuit to be very difficult to overtake around in Formula Renault's, Matt knew qualifying well was vital if he was to enjoy success around the Indy circuit. Despite being unable to match Friday's exploits, Mason was able to set some more competitive times, particularly in qualifying two where he finished just 0.129s off a front row start.
Mason, who is just completing his first year studying Business Management at Oxford Brookes University, said: “Going into qualifying, the track changed to the Friday and there was a lot more grip. The times came down by about half a second and we didn't really make full use of that, I wasn't driving on the limit really. I had to give it a big push for the second session, as the first one we only managed twelfth and we were about half a second off the pace.
“Went out in the next one, we were running third for most of the qualifying, but in the last quarter we dropped back to ninth. From second to ninth there was literally just over a tenth of a second between us, less than half a car length. If we were just that little bit quicker we could have been second, so I was satisfied with the time, but not with the position.”
Race one saw Matt negotiate an early race restart, before going to enjoy a strong race run. Working his way up the field, he produced the best overtaking move of the race with a stunning pass on James Thorp around the outside of Druids, moving him into ninth where he eventually finished.
The 18 year old commented: “The first start was red flagged, which was a shame as I had made a good start. Second time round I had an average start and Steven Durrant behind me had a really good start, meaning he overtook two of us. I was up to about tenth, behind James Thorp and Durrant, who had a little incident on the first lap and lost part of his front wing, meaning he was just defending the whole race.
“As Brands is such a tight circuit, with little overtaking opportunities, everyone was defending and I just couldn't overtake. Got to the stage where Thorp and Durrant were having a little battle in front ans Thorp tried to go up the inside, but couldn't quite make it. Durrant squeezed him on the inside going into Druids and seeing this coming, I just steamed in, really late on the brakes around the outside of both of them, but Durrant squeezed me so I had to slot in behind him, though I overtook Thorp. That was the only progress we really made in the race.”
The second race saw Mason once again showcase his superb racecraft with another quality passing move, this time on Howard Fuller at Clearways. He then settled down and set some blistering lap times on his way to a seventh place finish, his best result of the season so far.
Reflecting on the race, Mason added: “The second race I started ninth and finished seventh, which is pretty good. Had an alright start this time and made a good move on Howard Fuller into Clearways from really far back. We were very fast, so the potential was there.”
Matt felt the potential was there for some strong results over the weekend, but that the difficulty of overtaking on the circuit stopped him from making the progress he wanted to: “It's so annoying as we know we had the pace, being joint fastest on Friday. I messed up one of the qualifying's, but the second one we were all there or thereabouts, and I was consistently fast. Therefore we should have been able to overtake and make up a bit of ground, but due to the track you can't, so that did hamper our performance quite a bit.”
The two top ten finishes moves Matt up to seventh in the championship standings, the best of the rookies for the championship. Next up are Rounds Five and Six of the championship on Saturday 28 May around the challenging Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire, a weekend he is feeling confident about: “I hope to move on up at Oulton, where we can actually overtake. I hope to be top three all weekend. It would be good as we've only had one day there, we'll see.”