Friday’s pre-race Protyre Formula Renault Championship testing at Snetterton, gave Championship contender Matteo Ferrer a chance to work on sorting the handling of his car, as the previous Snetterton test in May had been pretty much a ‘wash-out’. This time he made steps forward with the set up and balance in each of the four half hour sessions, and although he didn’t feel the car was quite where he wanted it to be, he was confident he would be on the pace in Saturday morning’s qualifying.
After a brief rain shower that made for a cold and damp track, Matteo qualified a respectable fifth for Race One and Race Two from the times posted in the first of the two qualifying sessions. Although he felt the changes to the car set up were in improvement, he was disappointed with his lap time and still felt there was more to come.
A small change ahead of second qualifying gave Matteo better pace for the start of the session and he was comfortably in fourth position right up until the last minute when, after being forced to slow for a yellow flag on his last lap, he was demoted by two other cars.
With three longer than usual races on Snetterton’s long ‘300’ circuit layout, Matteo was still trying to improve the car and also have a set-up that would minimise tyre wear on the abrasive Snetterton surface. He again made a small set-up change for the first race. From fifth on the grid Matteo made a good start, did well to stay out of the first corner commotion, and by the end of lap one he was up to third and chasing down teammates Tarun Reddy and Pietro Fittipaldi. Although hot on the heels of Reddy, the long lap and the notoriously long, fast corners of Riches and Corum were being very hard on front tyres, badly affecting balance. But despite this challenge he was able to take the podium with third place. Teammate Reddy finished second, but because of licensing regulations he no longer qualifies for points in the Championship, therefore Matteo was awarded the twenty-eight points for second place.
Matteo made a good start in Sunday’s Race Two, again from fifth on the grid. Unfortunately, the change he made before the race did not work out as hoped and his performance suffered as he grappled with excessive understeer. Because of these issues Matteo was unable to fend off Alex Gill who passed him on the run down the start-finish straight. Struggling to maintain a competitive lap time, Matteo crossed the line in sixth, taking points for fifth, as again Reddy did not earn points.
Throughout the weekend, Matteo struggled with lap time despite the car data showing that he was quick through the corners. After a lot of deliberation and review of his on-board videos and data, it became apparent that Matteo’s engine had been losing power at a progressive and increasingly alarming rate and by the end of Race Two he was losing a clear 5 kph in top speed. The power loss and slow engine response went a long way towards explaining many of the handling and speed issues he had experienced throughout the whole weekend.
With yet another set up change to try to combat the persistent understeer, Matteo started the final Race of the weekend in sixth place. He again made a good start and engaged in a heated battle throughout the race with American, TJ Fischer and MGR teammate Colin Nobel. Although Matteo’s car handling had improved significantly, the missing engine power coming off the corners and on the long straights, put him at an impossible disadvantage to his competitors. Despite a determined and aggressive race, he could only finish seventh, with points for sixth. The problem had become so acute, that the straight-line speed deficit had increased to 8 kph and the lack of engine response exiting corners was also very clear.
The fourth round of the Protyre Formula Renault Championship at Snetterton had been a very challenging one, however, Matteo was able to earn valuable points in each race despite the technical problems encountered, and his tenacity in the circumstances meant that he still held onto second in the Championship. With all the facts and information gathered over the weekend, he is optimistic of being stronger and faster at the next round at Croft intent on closing the points gap to Championship leader Pietro Fittipaldi.
Allinsport’s Peter Collins was disappointed with the result but never the less happy with Matteo’s performance. “Despite the technical difficulties, Matteo did an excellent job with the equipment he had to work with in qualifying and the races. Reviewing the whole weekend with the facts now available, his Snetterton qualifying and race struggles are now much easier to understand.”
The final two rounds of the Championship will be held on consecutive weekends at Croft and Silverstone respectively. The Croft races will be held Saturday and Sunday 20-21 September 2014, with the Silverstone Championship finale on 27-28 September.