SMITH WINS TITLE CROWN WITH DOUBLE PODIUM AT BRANDS HATCH MANOR COMPETITION'S DEAN SMITH (WOLVERHAMPTON) NEEDED JUST ONE ROUND TO SECURE THE 2009 MICHELIN FORMULA RENAULT UK CHAMPIONSHIP DURING THE FINAL MEETING OF THE SEASON AT KENT'S BRANDS...
SMITH WINS TITLE CROWN WITH DOUBLE PODIUM AT BRANDS HATCH
MANOR COMPETITION'S DEAN SMITH (WOLVERHAMPTON) NEEDED JUST ONE ROUND TO SECURE THE 2009 MICHELIN FORMULA RENAULT UK CHAMPIONSHIP DURING THE FINAL MEETING OF THE SEASON AT KENT'S BRANDS HATCH GP CIRCUIT ON 3RD/4TH OCTOBER.
SMITH CRUISED TO A LIGHTS-TO-FLAG VICTORY IN ROUND 19 TO GIVE HIM ENOUGH POINTS TO SECURE THE TITLE AND FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS LEWIS HAMILTON (2003) AND KIMI RaIKKoNEN (2000). THE 21-YEAR-OLD ALSO PICKED UP A PODIUM (THIRD) IN THE FINAL ROUND OF THE SINGLE-SEATER SERIES TO ROUND OFF AN IMPRESSIVE WEEKEND FOR THE RACER WHO NOW PLANS TO MOVE INTO EUROPEAN F3.
NEAREST RIVAL FORTEC MOTORSPORT'S JAMES CALADO (WORCESTER) HAD TO SETTLE FOR THE VICE-CHAMPION SPOT DESPITE A LIGHTS-TO-FLAG VICTORY IN ROUND 20. THE WEEKEND ALSO SAW PODIUMS FOR FORTEC TEAM-MATE OLI WEBB (KNUTSFORD) WHO FINISHED SECOND IN ROUND 19 WITH MARK BURDETT MOTORSPORT'S JESSE KROHN (SKEGNESS) ROUNDING OFF THE PODIUM HONOURS IN THE ROUND.
CRS RACING'S LEWIS WILLIAMSON (GOLSPIE) CLAIMED THE FINAL PODIUM SPOT WITH SECOND IN ROUND 20 AND HIS BEST PERFORMANCE OF HIS DEBUT SEASON. TEAM-MATE HARRY TINCKNELL (EXETER) WAS ALSO ABLE TO WRAP UP THE GRADUATE CUP TITLE DURING THE ACTION-PACKED WEEKEND.
Calado win too late...
The championship's final round played out to a packed 10,000 plus live audience both at the circuit and watching live on ITV4. For the 10th time this season, Calado lined up on the start grid as Michelin pole-sitter with 19-year-old Williamson for company on the front row. CRS Racing's Josh Scott (Milton Keynes) and Smith sat behind with Alpine Motorsport's Dean Stoneman (Southampton) in fifth.
As the lights went out for the start of the 15-lap race, it was Calado who made a dream start to lead the field going into Paddock Hill Bend followed by Williamson and Smith who had been able to get ahead of Scott. Stoneman lay in fourth with Krohn in fifth as the field completed the opening lap.
Race leader Calado pushed hard early on and edging his Racing Steps Foundation backed car further ahead of Williamson who had looked strong all weekend. Calado was still charging by lap eight, despite racking up a comfortable lead, and setting the NGK fastest lap along with a new lap record with a time of 1m 23.139s (99.63mph average).
In the midfield battle, positions were less certain as Alpine Motorsport's Isa Yousif (Southampton) and Manor Competition's David McDonald (Ewell), who nearly didn't race following a spin in Saturday's qualifying session, jostled for position. McDonald eventually got the better of the 18-year-old though with a determined move at Druids.
As the race progressed, Calado continued to dominate powering his Fortec Motorsport car around the 2.301-mile GP circuit. Positions further down the order were still up for grabs though with Hitech Junior's Tama's Pa'l Kiss (HUN) -- who was awarded the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day award - getting the better of Fortec Motorsport's Will Stevens (Oxshott) at Surtees to move into 11th before turning his attention to the back of Tincknell's car ahead.
Meanwhile as Calado began his 15th and final lap the 20-year-old had almost a five second advantage over Williamson and duly brought his car safely through Clark Curve and over the Brabham Straight to claim his eighth win. Williamson finished a deserved second with Smith rounding off the podium honours. Stoneman and Krohn completed the top five with Tincknell claiming yet another Graduate Cup win as the newly-crowned rookie champion.
Smith wraps up title crown...
Sunday's earlier round 19 initially saw Calado as Michelin pole-sitter until an investigation by the Clerk of the Course deemed that his time had been set under yellow flag conditions dropping him to ninth, his next quickest time, and already damaging his title prospects. Smith meanwhile moved up one place to take the P1 honours with Williamson and Krohn occupying row two.
Smith, needing to finish 10 points ahead of James for victory, made the perfect start as the lights went out followed by Webb, with Krohn also making a great start and going around the outside of Williamson at Paddock Hill Bend to move into third. Behind, title hopefuls Stoneman and Calado were running nose-to-tail in seventh and eighth places chasing a three-car train of CRS Racing cars ahead.
The opening few laps saw Smith push hard despite not needing to win the race to secure the title with Webb responding by ensuring the 21-year-old was never out of his sights. Krohn was also running well in third followed by a slight gap before Williamson, team-mate Euan Hankey (Somerset) and 17-year-old Tincknell.
By lap six Webb was still pushing and setting the NGK fastest lap of the race. Further down the order a great battle was being played out between Hitech Junior team-mates Nick Yelloly (Solihull) and Pa'l Kiss for 10th and 11th places.
As Smith continued to dominate, behind a frustrated Calado was trying hard to improve on his eighth position with an attempt to pass Stoneman around the outside of Druids but Dean drove a defensive line to hold the place. Ahead, Williamson, Hankey and Tincknell were all running strong in fourth, fifth and sixth places although Harry was now beginning to be caught by Dean.
Out in front, Smith was certainly not being caught and with just a few laps remaining the Wolverhampton racer began to ease off knowing that victory and the title were now insight. Webb, unable to catch, had little option but to settle for second with third-place Krohn enjoying a comfortable margin over Williamson.
Lap 15 saw Smith exit Clark Curve for the final time to cross the line for his seventh win (third consecutive) and secure the 2009 championship title -- much to the delight of Tony Shaw's Manor Competition team, which included an engineer who also helped Kimi Raikkonen to victory back in 2000. Webb finished second with Krohn -- who was awarded the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day - in third, his first podium since round five at Donington Park. Williamson finished fourth with Hankey rounding off the top five. Tincknell finished sixth and the leading rookie driver as well as wrapping up the overall Graduate Cup title.
Commenting on his weekend Smith, who will also test a World Series by Renault FR3.5 car as part of his prize, said: "I'm absolutely delighted to win the title with a race victory and it sums up the year for me. This isn't just a celebration for me though but for Manor Competition as well who have been amazing. We knew this season would be tough because of the late start but everyone has worked so hard to deliver a fantastic car. I'm already looking ahead to next year and I'm hoping to move into European F3 or possibly even GP2."
Vice-Champion Calado commenting on his weekend said: "The win in round 20 was a good way to finish off the year for me and the weekend which has been frustrating to tell the truth. It's a shame the race officials decided to take the action they did but I've enjoyed my final weekend in Formula Renault and I'm now moving into Formula 3 in 2010."
Webb, who finished second in round 19 and third overall, commented: "I knew coming into round 19 that I was unlikely to win the title but I was still focusing on securing third or even second from James. I got a good start but couldn't quite get close enough to Dean to challenge. I'm pleased with the result though and with the season overall."
Lewis who finished second in round 20 said: "It's been a great weekend for us and a good year. We've had our ups and downs but so have a lot of drivers and I'm now looking forward to racing again next season where hopefully I'll be among the title contenders."
Third-place in round 19 Krohn added: "I got a good start and managed to pass Lewis early on. I had good race pace but I did get held up by a back-marker which hampered my race slightly but I'm still delighted to be on the podium after so long."
-credit: frenault uk