CROFT DOUBLE SEES SMITH CLOSE TITLE RACE Manor Competition's Dean Smith (Wolverhampton) increased his title credentials in the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship with a double podium during rounds nine and 10 at North Yorkshire's...
CROFT DOUBLE SEES SMITH CLOSE TITLE RACE
Manor Competition's Dean Smith (Wolverhampton) increased his title credentials in the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship with a double podium during rounds nine and 10 at North Yorkshire's Croft circuit on 13th/14th June. The 21-year-old 2007 Vice-Champion took an impressive victory in round 10 on Sunday, 14th June preceded by a second place during Saturday's round nine to put the Black Country racer third in the drivers' standings.
Two consistent third places by Fortec Motorsport's Oli Webb (Knutsford) though still sees the 18-year-old lead the Championship, 15 points clear of nearest rival Alpine Motorsport's Dean Stoneman (Southampton) who also picked up a podium (second) in round 10. Oli's team-mate James Calado (Worcester) endured mixed fortunes with a superb lights-to-flag victory in round nine only for the 20-year-old racer to retire with mechanical problems in round 10 -- dropping him to fifth in the Championship.
Smith capitalises on Calado misfortune...
In front of a packed crowd of thousands round 10 got underway in glorious sunshine. Following Saturday's qualifying session, Calado lined the grid as Michelin pole-sitter with Smith beside him for company -- an identical front row to Saturday's round nine.
As the lights went out for the 15-lap race, it was Smith who made the better start after Calado struggled to get away dropping him down the order and being passed by Stoneman and Webb. Already suffering, Calado could only nurse his car to the run-up to Tower on the opening lap before retiring with what later transpired to be a broken conrod which had gone through the engine.
As the rest of the field completed their first lap Smith was already showing his intentions by developing a lead of almost a second over Stoneman with Webb in third and Mark Burdett Motorsport's Jesse Krohn (Skegness) in fourth.
Further down the order, Hitech Junior's Jordan Oakes (Hopton-on-Sea) had already made up an impressive eight places on the opening few laps after a poor run in Saturday's qualifying session saw him start from the back of the grid. Meanwhile, CRS Racing's Lewis Williamson (Golspie) dropped down the order after he was given a drive through penalty for failing to line up on the start grid in the correct position.
Out in front, Smith was making light work of his lead already building a sizeable cushion over Stoneman and setting the NGK fastest lap on lap five with a time of 1min 18.130s (97.91mph average). As Smith continued to dominate, Webb turned his attentions to challenge for second while in the midfield a great battle was developing between CRS Racing team-mates Josh Scott (Milton Keynes) -- who was awarded the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day -- and Graduate Cup drivers Harry Tincknell (Exeter) and Finland's Matias Laine.
As the race progressed, Smith was now nearly five seconds ahead of second placed Stoneman and continuing to push in his Manor Competition car to the limit. Behind the front-runners, Fortec Motorsport team-mates Will Stevens (Oxshott) and Fredrik Blomstedt (Northampton) were battling hard for fifth and sixth places whilst further down the order a determined Oakes was now up to a respectable 14th.
With just a few laps to go, there was little any one could do to catch the Wolverhampton racer with the remainder of the podium places also unchanged despite Webb's best efforts to pass the reigning Graduate Cup Champion by braking as late as possible, especially at the Hairpin -- the tightest of any UK circuit -- on the last lap.
Smith crossed the line to take his fourth victory this season and secure maximum Championship points for the round following his earlier NGK fastest lap. Stoneman and Webb took second and third leaving Finnish driver Krohn to secure fourth with Stevens rounding off the top five. Oakes eventually crossed the line in 14th having passed half the field.
A post race investigation by the Clerk of the Course saw Hitech Junior's Tama's Pa'l Kiss (Silverstone) awarded a time penalty for contact with Alpine Motorsport's Isa Yousif (Southampton) at the Hairpin on lap 11, with the two drivers eventually finishing 19th and 18th respectively.
Calado impresses in round nine...
Saturday's race (round nine) saw Calado line up on the grid as Michelin pole-sitter with title rival Smith alongside him on the front row. As the lights went out it was Calado who made the best start to lead the field into Clervaux followed by Smith, Webb, Stoneman and 19-year-old racer Williamson.
In the midfield, Scott made a good start to move into seventh by the end of the first lap after starting ninth on the gird chasing down team-mate Laine.
By the end of the first few laps Calado was already pulling away, developing a comfortable lead over Smith and setting the NGK fastest lap on lap three in the process with a time of 1min 18.065s (97.99mph average).
There were still plenty of battles taking place throughout the field though, in particular between Scott, who had been able to get the better of his team-mate Laine to take sixth and Stevens who had been able to pass Krohn for eighth.
With no change in the top five, the midfield battle continued to intensify with team-mates Scott and Laine still challenging with Matias getting the better run out of the Hairpin on lap 11 to retake the place. This allowed Stevens to close in and also pass the Australian racer dropping Josh to eighth.
With the race nearing its 15 lap duration, Calado -- who was celebrating his 20th birthday --
was now well in control with a lead of more than a second over Smith. James crossed the line to claim his fourth win of the season and maximum Championship points. Smith took second with Webb in third, Stoneman in fourth and Williamson rounding off the top five. Laine -- who was awarded the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day -- held on to take sixth and win the Graduate Cup for the round.
Commenting on his performance at the weekend, Smith said: "In Saturday's race, James [Calado] got away well and pulled ahead earlier on. His car seemed more settled than mine and I struggled with pace. The car felt really good for Sunday's race though and apart from a little understeer, I had a lot more pace and could really push. Overall it's been another good weekend for me and the team and I'm looking forward to racing at Silverstone as it's my favourite track."
Round nine winner Calado said: "Smith was fast in Saturday's race but I managed to keep a tenth of a lap ahead of him which was enough to control the race. For round 10 the car just didn't feel right straight from the start. The team changed the engine the night before as the old one had done four races but the conrod went through the engine and ended my race. I'm still confident I can pull things back though."
Commenting on his performance, Stoneman said: "We need to work on finding extra pace as we're struggling slightly to get the car on the front of the grid. We're still scoring consistently though and looking good at the halfway stage."
Championship leader Webb added: "I'm content with how things have gone this weekend. I managed to keep Stoneman behind me in Saturday's race and then the roles were reversed in Sunday's race where I just couldn't get close enough to challenge."
Rounds 11 and 12 of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship take place at Silverstone Grand Prix circuit on 4th/5th July as part of the World Series by Renault event.
-credit: frenault uk