The official Protyre Formula Renault test day on the Thursday prior to the race weekend at Donington Park was plagued by rain. Matteo drew on knowledge from previous Donington tests and quickly got to grips with the wet track. Happy with the set up and balance of the car, Matteo set consistent competitive times.
Calm and confident for Saturday mornings qualifying, Matteo approached the first session determined to post a quick time early. Eager to again grab pole position he pushed a little too hard early on and was caught out on cold tyres at the Old Hairpin corner on lap three. Despite only posting one fast lap, Matteo’s time placed him in ninth on the grid for Race One and tenth for Race Two.
Having already suffered in the first session, Matteo was more cautious in the second qualifying session, building his rhythm and speed and was rewarded with third quickest time of the session. Matteo was pleased with his time and was optimistic to have a strong race three.
Starting ninth for a dry Race One, Matteo knew he had some ground to make up in order to maintain his Championship lead. Despite an average start, Matteo was able to move up a place on the first lap. He then continued to pick off his rivals as he made some calculated moves through the field, with lap times that were competitive with the front runners. Matteo was battling hard with American TJ Fischer, who was defending vigorously, and the pair were side by side through a number of Donington’s fast corners. Matteo ultimately forced his way past Fischer to finish the race fifth, dropping him second in the Championship by one point.
Race Two on a sunny Sunday morning saw Matteo start tenth. With a clear view in his mind of what he wanted to achieve, Matteo made a strong start and moved into seventh by the second corner of the first lap. Charging through the field, Matteo was flying and was soon into fourth by lap five. Into turn one on his sixth lap Matteo grabbed the inside line to overtake team-mate Tarun Reddy, but Reddy came back at him with a very aggressive move at the next corner to get by. This move left Reddy slow off the corner which allowed Matteo to get a run on him again, but a sudden defensive move and early braking from Reddy caused Matteo to tag the back of the Indian’s car. The contact dislodged Matteo’s wing and the ensuing melee allowed Canadian Dessault to take advantage of the situation, relegating Matteo to seventh. Despite the damage Matteo continued, running as hard as possible, and held seventh position until he lost another part of the wing, reducing front downforce even further causing even more understeer, leaving him to limp home in tenth place and still take some valuable championship points.
For Race Three Matteo lined up directly behind pole position man Piers Hickin which should have given Matteo a good run to the first corner, but as the lights went out Hickin bogged down, forcing Matteo to take avoiding action allowing Pietro Fittpaldi from fourth on the grid to get ahead. Although he was compromised off the grid, Matteo made it through turn one still in third position, with Alex Gill closely shadowing him. On lap three, the leading pack was fighting for position, often three abreast. Matteo was struggling with a little oversteer, and he ran a slightly wide at the exit of the last corner, allowing Hickin to get a run onto him into the first corner to grab third. An intense and lively battle between the front five cars continued throughout the course of the race and in the last few laps Matteo set another fastest race lap in his pursuit of third placed Hickin.
Despite some disappointing moments over the weekend, Matteo drove hard and with a lot of determination. The unfortunate wing damage in Race Two resulted in Matteo losing valuable points, which meant by the end of the weekend he had dropped to third in the Championship standings behind Pietro Fittipaldi and Piers Hickin respectively.
Reflecting on his weekend, Matteo said, “All we can do is come back with a vengeance! The most important thing is that we earned points this weekend despite the qualifying problem. There are still nine races to go and many points to be won. Consistency is going to be the key.”
Allinsport’s Samantha Collins commented; “Of course there were some disappointing moments over the weekend, but he showed a lot of resolve to overcome his grid position. It is still early in the Championship and we have confidence Matteo will be on the attack.”
The next round of the Protyre Formula Renault Championship will be held at the challenging Brands Hatch Indy circuit at the end of July.