FIFTH WIN OF SEASON EXTENDS SMITH'S CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD Manor Competition made a welcome return to the top step of the podium at Rockingham in Northamptonshire this afternoon, Saturday, 19th September, with Dean Smith taking his fifth victory of...
FIFTH WIN OF SEASON EXTENDS SMITH'S CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD
Manor Competition made a welcome return to the top step of the podium at Rockingham in Northamptonshire this afternoon, Saturday, 19th September, with Dean Smith taking his fifth victory of the season during the 17th round of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship.
Setting the pace during Friday's pre-event practice, the Nottinghamshire-based team went on to secure pole position with Smith for both of the weekend's races on the 1.94-mile International Super Sports Car Circuit. Further domination followed during the opening encounter with a stunning lights-to-flag performance from the 21-year-old.
Running consistently faster than anyone else lap-after-lap, Smith opened up an eventual winning margin of 6.5 seconds and also took two bonus points for the fastest lap of the race, 1m15.935 seconds (91.97mph) -- a brand new circuit record. The Wolverhampton racer's result means he now holds a 13-point lead in the championship standings ahead of tomorrow's 18th round.
Smith commented: "From first practice we were right up there, in the second practice we were fastest and then in qualifying this morning we were fastest again. There was still more to come though and in the second qualifying session to be four 10ths clear was fantastic. In the race I was able to pull away fairly easily. It's fantastic to be back on the top step of the podium, the team did an awesome job."
Behind Smith, 19-year-old team-mate David McDonald raced superbly to his fifth top six finish of the season with an impressive drive from 11th on the grid. Qualifying just six 10ths of a second shy of pole position, McDonald lined-up on the sixth row of the grid but picked his way through a chaotic opening lap at Deene Hairpin to gain five places.
Chasing down Euan Hankey ahead, Ewell-based McDonald closed to within one second at the finish and was, in turn, over three seconds clear of his nearest pursuer. Underlining the competitiveness of the race, the Manor star was just 1.9 seconds shy of the podium and his result closes him to within just four points of ninth position in the championship.
Alice Powell climbed three places in the overall driver standings with an excellent 12th place result this afternoon and also boosted her position in the Graduate Cup -- a championship within a championship for inexperienced category rookies -- to sixth.
Starting round 17 from 19th on the grid, Powell also managed to thread her way through the carnage at the first hairpin. Into lap two the Chipping Norton 16-year-old was in 14th position and after gaining a further place on lap seven, she moved up another spot at the expense of Manor's Dutch driver Thomas Hylkema who was forced into the pits with a damaged front wing.
The 21-year-old, from Maarn in the Netherlands, had been enjoying an outstanding race inside the top 10 -- up from 13th on the grid -- but race officials forced him to pit from ninth position after deciding his damaged front wing was dangerous. Bitterly disappointed to see his fourth top 10 result slip away, Hylkema will be aiming to make amends at Rockingham tomorrow.
Speaking on today's action, Manor Competition co-owner Sarah Shaw said: "It's obviously fantastic for the championship to have won today, Dean did an amazing job and his pace was stunning. It looked set to be a great finish for all four of our drivers, they raced brilliantly, but the decision to bring Thomas in for his front wing spoiled that.
"It was a huge shame for him as, even with a loose front wing, he was lapping really quickly and running strongly in ninth place. David's top six was very well deserved, as was Alice's top 12, they both produced excellent performances and should be very pleased."
Round 18 of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship will commence at approximately 12.00 tomorrow, Sunday, 20th September, and will be screened live on Freeview, cable and digital satellite channel ITV4. Smith will start the race from pole position with Hylkema ninth, McDonald 12th and Powell 16th on the grid.