Matt Parry will get to show off his talent in a Formula One car next year after winning one of the most prestigious off-track awards in motorsport.
The rising star from Bury St Edmunds received the McLaren Autosport British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) accolade at the star-studded Autosport Awards in London on Sunday night — and with it a test drive with the McLaren Formula One (F1) team.
Current McLaren driver Jenson Button — the F1 world champion in 2009 — used the award to launch his career with Williams, while multiple Grand Prix winner David Coulthard is another previous winner.
“I’m both honoured and privileged to join the other 24 names on the roll of previous winners, and can only hope to follow in their footsteps in the next few years,” said 19-year-old Parry, a former County Upper School and West Suffolk College pupil. “This award has great prestige, so hopefully I can do it justice and make it to my goal of F1.”
Some of the biggest names in motorsport — including four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel and World Rally Championship winner Sébastien Ogier — were in attendance to watch Parry receive his award.
There were also heroes of the past such as Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart and current technical wizards Christian Horner and Adrian Newey, the team principal and chief technical officer of the all-conquering Red Bull Racing F1 team, looking on.
“I don’t know what my heart-rate was, but it was certainly beating fast and then when my name was announced I suddenly realised I had to do a speech in front of 1,200 people from the top of the motorsport ladder,” said Parry, whose test drive for McLaren should take place towards the end of next year.
Although of Welsh origin, Parry has lived in Bury for the past seven years, along with several members of his family, including his mum, who now lives in Great Barton.
During that time he has built several relationships in the area to help towards his motor racing career, including JLF Designs, who will get to paint his new Arai GP-6 RC carbon helmet, one of the award prizes.
On top of that and the McLaren test drive, the Motor Sports Association (MSA) Team UK member — a programme for elite young drivers — will receive full membership of the BRDC and £100,000 towards his racing career.
“There’s a lot of hard work still to go,” said Parry. “This award is fantastic, but it doesn’t make me any quicker.
“This award is huge in the motorsport industry and the monetary funding is a great prize considering this sport is so expensive, but an F1 test is a dream in itself and that dream is going to come true at the end of 2014.”
Parry — who is on Caterham F1 team’s driver development programme — won the Intersteps title at a canter last year and did similar in dominating the Formula Renault Northern European Cup this year for Fortec Motorsport.
In doing so, he followed in the footsteps of current F1 driver Valtteri Bottas and will hope to emulate a host of F1 racers by clinching the Formula Renault Eurocup title in 2014. Outgoing Ferrari race winner Felipe Massa (2000) is a previous Eurocup champion.
“With the team around us, it’s highly possibly I could do Eurocup next year,” said Parry. “We just need to finalise everything and then I can be completely focused on the job in hand.”
Beyond the Eurocup, Parry would aim to tackle the Formula Renault 3.5 World Series — won this year by new McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen — and hopes to impress enough to earn his place with the elite in F1.
Speaking about her former pupil, County Upper School headteacher Vicky Neale said: “It was always his passion and he always worked really hard to get his GCSEs as a back-up.
“He then got the chance to go off and follow his dream and we are all proud that it’s gone so well for him.”