At the first round of the 2014 Protyre Formula Renault Championship at Rockingham Matteo was consistently quick during Friday’s official pre-race test. Full of confidence Saturday morning going into the first qualifying session, Matteo was immediately on the pace and held the top of the time sheet throughout the session. Qualifying one determined the grid for races one and two, using the quickest and second quickest lap time respectively. Matteo’s two fastest laps gave him his maiden pole position and pole for both races.
In qualifying two Matteo was just as quickly into a rhythm and good pace, and was rewarded with his third pole for race three. An impressive hat trick to start the Protyre Formula Renault season.
Starting race one at the front of the grid on Saturday afternoon caused some pre-race nerves for Matteo. As the lights went out he made a good start, but was being chased down on the long run to turn one. An unfortunate momentary brake-lock led him to run wide, giving his teammate Pietro Fittipaldi the lead and dropping Matteo back to fifth. Determined to make amends Matteo fell straight into a rhythm and closed in on Fortec Motorsport ’s Ben Barnicoat in fourth place, diving to the inside on the run through the banked oval and moved ahead of him into turn one, holding him under brakes and emerging ahead at turn two in fourth. Matteo then set his sights on Piers Hickin in third, as he prepared to attack Hickin, second placed Alex Gill made an error and touched the wall exiting the last corner, and then ran straight on at turn one. Matteo was close on Hicken’s tale, and was able to run along side Hickens in a number of attempts to take second place in the closing laps, however he was unable to make a successful move on the Englishman and took the chequered flag in third place after a good recovery.
Matteo’s first podium in Protyre Formula Renault, gave him twenty-five points with a two point bonus for setting fastest race lap. Matteo’s determined fight back with fastest lap means he is only four points behind race one winner Fittipaldi.
On a dry but very windy track, Matteo started race two again from pole position, alongside teammate Fittipaldi, and made a good getaway despite some wheelspin. The MGR teammates ran side by side off the line and down the long run to turn one. Matteo had the inside line and held strong as the pair fought for track position, Matteo coming out ahead of Fittipaldi. Matteo instantly started to pull away from the whole field and led the race from lights to flag with a good gap of over seven seconds. An excellent drive with consistent pace and rythm gave Matteo his maiden win in racing, earning a well deserved thirty points.
Sunday afternoon’s race three saw Matteo once again in the top grid spot, this time alongside Alex Gill’s Fortec car. Matteo made a good start but was chased closely by Gill and teammate Fittipaldi on the run to the first corner. As the pack went into the second lap Matteo was surrounded at the hairpin as they went four-wide, Matteo keeping his lead defending well. Gill, having had a puncture in race one, was on better rubber having had a new half set of tyres in race two, and this gave him a braking and traction advantage. With this advantage he was able to out-brake Matteo into turn one on lap 7, with Hickin close behind.
Due to an incident lower down the field a short safety car period ensued. As the leaders headed for the restart Matteo’s well used rubber hindered his exit from the last corner, meaning he was unable be close enough to get a jump on Gill. With six laps remaining Matteo concentrated on closing the gap to battle for the lead. Matteo took the chequered flag in second place, only three tenths behind Gill and again set fastest lap of the race. Matteo’s second place and fastest lap earned him thirty points, giving him a total of eighty-seven points for the weekend, putting him in the lead of the Championship.
Allinsport’s Samantha Collins commented; “Matteo has worked very hard over the past two years. To come from no racing of any type, straight into single-seaters and achieve three pole positions and three podiums is a very impressive achievement ”
“Of course three wins would have been my preferred choice,” smiled Ferrer “but I can’t say I’m disappointed with the weekend. The most important thing is to finish every race and earn points so I can keep my sights on the Championship title.”
Team owner Mark Godwin was pleased with Matteo’s performance over the weekend, “I thought Matteo soaked up the pressure extremely well while he was in the lead of race three, especially considering he was at a tyre disadvantage. And once that disadvantage was gone it was clear that Matteo was the faster as he set the race’s fastest lap.”
Matteo’s next race in the Protyre Championship will be at Donington Park on 31 May and 1 June.