Matt Mason produced a superb performance in the latest rounds of the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship, the MGR Motorsport driver stunning his rivals at Thruxton to take second place in Round Ten, Mason's maiden podium finish in his first season of car-racing.
Last time out at Croft, Matt and his MGR Motorsport team struggled throughout, finding themselves much further off the pace than expected. Despite this though, Nottingham-based Mason was in relatively confident mood heading to Thruxton, after performing well at the high-speed Hampshire circuit at a test day in pre-season.
A strong run in Friday testing, which put Matt unofficially second in the times, meant all eyes were on the 19 year old heading into morning qualifying, but he didn't let the pressure get to him and a superb performance saw him secure third on the grid, with his second best time putting him second for race two, his finest performance in qualifying this season and the best showing by any rookie all campaign.
The opening race saw Mason drop to fifth early on, but a superb drive saw him work his way back to third and closing on second. There was to be slight disappointment however when on the last racing lap before a red flag, a steering problem forced Mason off track, dropping him to a fourth place finish.
Mason, who will be at Mansfield Renault this weekend (10/11 September) showing off his Formula Renault car, said: “We had a few issues at Croft the last race, we were really far off the pace and we still don't really know why. They had a big strip down of the cars, ironed out some issues and we've come here and been pretty fast since first testing on Friday.
“I started the race in third place and got an alright start, but dropped back to fifth by about lap three, then came back up to third. I was catching second when the steering rack broke on the car and I went off. One of the teeth on the little pinions inside had dislodged and got jammed, so going into turn three I literally couldn't turn the steering wheel and had to use all my strength to get it to suddenly snap back. I missed the corner as I couldn't turn into it, so I dropped back to fourth and the race was then red flagged, which is probably a good thing as that little bit could have got stuck again around Goodwood, one of the fastest corners in the country.”
Despite feeling frustrated at just missing out on the podium in race one, the race left Mason feeling he could challenge for a maiden win. A great getaway saw Matt challenge the leader around the outside at the first bend, but he had to back off and slot into second, from which point the leader Dino Zamparelli was able to stay ahead. Matt matched his lap times through the middle part of the race though as he ran in a clear and comfortable second, which he converted to take a memorable first ever car racing podium, becoming the first rookie in the championship this season to do so.
Mason, who dedicates his podium result to family friend Jeff Leadley, who passed away at Thruxton last year while racing Ferrari's, commented: “Absolutely fantastic! It's really good. I got a really good start and was alongside the leader at the start, but in all fairness I gave him a bit of room because he was slightly ahead and then I just stuck behind him the rest of the race. He pulled away quite a lot in the first three laps, but then mid race we were doing similar lap times and towards the end my times dropped off a bit.
“He's an experienced driver and was hitting qualifying sort of laps, while I was trying to keep calm and have a good finish really. I still think I've got quite a lot to learn, because I'm still a rookie at the end of the day, but I'm really happy with it. I'd say we haven't had the greatest luck this season, we haven't been able to fund the testing that lots of drivers on the grid have, so I think for the amount of mileage I've done in the car, I'm really impressed with the result and it has been a real turning point in the year, which is just what we needed. It's brilliant.”
The two great results means Mason moves up from tenth to seventh in the standings, meaning he is now able to challenge for a top five championship finish at the final meeting of the season at Silverstone, which sees the series join the prestigious British Touring Car Championship package.