APT END TO HARRIS' ROLLERCOASTER YEAR Matt Harris' season in the Formula BMW UK Championship has been a blend of spectacular highs -- including his first career victory in a breathtakingly exciting race in Ireland -- and some depressing...
APT END TO HARRIS' ROLLERCOASTER YEAR
Matt Harris' season in the Formula BMW UK Championship has been a blend of spectacular highs -- including his first career victory in a breathtakingly exciting race in Ireland -- and some depressing lows.JThis pattern continued into the final rounds of the series at Brands Hatch last weekend.
The meeting started well for Harris, whose pace in damp-but-drying conditions during the pre-race test appeared to auger well.
"It all looked wicked in testing," said Matt. "I was fourth fastest at one stage when the track was drying, and it looked like qualifying was going to go really well. We were really on a high."
Not for the first time this year, qualifying threw a spanner in the works, as Harris ended up with two 19th places rather than the double top ten he had aimed for. He was sixth fastest in the first sector of the lap in the opening session -- but second-to-last in sector two, having had every attempt at a fast lap interrupted by yellow warning flags after a host of drivers came to grief on the challenging bends of Brands' Grand Prix loop. The second session took place in wet conditions, and Harris and his SWR team-mates went out on brand new rain tyres, which always take time to 'scrub in' and start working properly. Matt was still searching vainly for some grip when the session ended.
The races were always going to be a hard slog from row ten, but Harris drove very well to come through to 13th in round 19, a result he was "quite pleased with" in the circumstances. That performance inspired him to throw caution to the wind in the season's final round.
"It was the last race of the year, and I'd got through the whole year without damaging the car, so we effectively had a bit of money left in the 'damage budget', and I thought I would absolutely go for it," said Harris.
"I had quite a few good overtaking moves early on and made up four or five places in two laps, but then I had a lunge into Druids and locked up the front wheels. It would have been okay normally but the outside of the track was still a bit damp and very dirty, so I just slid straight into the gravel."
That was how Matt's bizarre 2005 season ended. The events of Brands encapsulated the contrasting fortunes Harris has experienced all year.JThis season has seen him produce some cracking drives through the field, especially that unforgettable surge from last to first in the damp at Mondello Park, but also endure some truly nightmarish weekends. After a long, hard year, Matt has concluded that his spectacular style might be incompatible with the high-grip, low-power nature of the Formula BMW machine. A new challenge therefore beckons for 2006.
"I've worked out that the reason I'm so fast in damp or drying conditions is because that's the only time you can really slide a Formula BMW," he explained. "My driving style is all about throwing the car into the corner as fast as it can go, and then controlling it on the exit. But you can't afford to let a Formula BMW slide sideways, because they don't have a lot of power and it costs you so much momentum and exit speed."
Harris has one more Formula BMW weekend lined-up -- the hugely exciting World Finals meeting in Bahrain in December -- but it is highly unlikely that he will return to the UK series next season. The National Class of the British Formula Three Championship is Matt's preferred destination, although he is also willing to consider Formula Renault, or the radical new Challenge single-seater series set to launch in 2006.The fans and rivals who cheered him to victory in the treacherous conditions of Mondello know that Matt Harris can drive a racing car with real verve and skill, even if he hasn't always been able to demonstrate that ability this season. Whatever he ends up racing next year, Harris will hopefully enjoy many more triumphant days like Mondello, and far fewer frustrating ordeals like Brands Hatch.