Matt Mason endured a mixed day in Rounds Five and Six of the 2011 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship, the MGR Motorsport driver recovering from a big accident in race one to take his first top six finish in car racing in race two.
The weekend started with Friday testing, which proved to be very eventful for Mason. One session saw a wishbone snap in the left rear of his car as he headed towards the first corner, with the 18 year old narrowly avoiding a big crash, before in the final session a Formula Ford dropped water on the track, catching both Mason and the driver ahead of him out, causing both to go off at the fastest circuit of the corner.
Mason explains: “Luckily I only had a little bit of rear wing damage, but it knocked my confidence a bit because we didn't have as much time in the car as we could have. We were down on track time here anyway as we'd only had one test day before, so it left us on the back foot even more.”
The testing woes left the rookie at a real disadvantage over his rivals heading into Saturday morning's qualifying. The session, which determined the grid for both the day's races ended with his best time putting him thirteenth on the grid for Round Five and his second best putting him eleventh for Round Six.
Mason, from Southwell, Nottingham, commented: “Qualifying was quite hard as you had to be on it instantly and put in two consistent fast laps. We didn't put new tyres on Friday, as we'd planned to put them on in the final session but the crash stopped that, meaning we weren't very well prepared for qualifying.
“We put new tyres on, about the fourth set I've ever had on in the car and we've suddenly found a lot more grip. I pushed it, but not enough and we didn't get the best results really. On my best lap, I was three tenths up on my team-mate, but at the end of the lap a rival got in the way, which was a pain as I would have been top five or six.”
The Nottingham Urology Group and Care Fertility backed driver hoped to make up for it with a strong run in race one and started well, a great opening lap seeing him jump into the top ten and pressuring the drivers ahead. However his race was to end just a lap later, when he was innocently collected by a spinning rival, causing substantial damage to his car.
Reflecting on his first retirements of the season, Mason said: “The start was okay, I made up four or five places which was great and then caught the group ahead by the end of the first lap. Going into the first turn, [Victor] Jiminez, who was a few cars ahead of me, spun. The person behind him avoided him, the next driver binned it and the guy in front of me slammed on the brakes. I saw Jiminez go right, so I went left onto the grass, but he swung back and collected me. That was the end of the race with a lot of damage.”
Initial fears were that Matt wasn't going to get out for the next race, with serious damage to the whole front end of his car. However after a superb effort by his MGR team to get the car repaired, Matt was able to go out in the second race and pick up a hard fought sixth place finish, rewarding all the teams' hard work with their best result of the season so far.
Mason concluded: “Hats off to the team, they worked flat out on the car and they did really well to get me back out there. We had a very good start again and got to about eighth. At the restart, I made up two places and pulled out a comfortable lead from those behind, staying with [James] Theodore ahead who's an experienced driver for most of it. Quite a positive end to the weekend, it was my best result of the season and I don't think we could have been worse prepared for it.”
Photo Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography