SMITH ON TOP FORM DURING WORLD SERIES BY RENAULT TEST DEBUT
Wolverhampton racing driver Dean Smith got behind the wheel of a 425bhp World Series by Renault single-seater for the first time at Paul Ricard in France last week and immediately impressed as he continues to evaluate his options for 2009.
Invited to the world-famous test track near Marseille by Renault Sport Technologies, the 20-year-old British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) Rising Star joined a number of other rapid competitors from across Europe to sample the category.
Enjoying a sparkling debut test at the wheel of a Fortec Motorsport prepared FR 3.5 car, Dean lapped with the 13th fastest time in wet conditions during the morning before improving to an eventual finishing slot of eighth quickest in the afternoon.
Producing a time of 1m 19.185 seconds in session one, his quickest lap in the second run was 1m 17.180 seconds. However, with several drivers taking fresh tyres while Dean remained on older rubber, the end result wasn't truly indicative of the genuine picture.
"It was a really good test but the timesheets at the end of the day didn't reflect how competitive we were", explained the West Midlander, "Track conditions changed at the end which allowed several drivers on new tyres to go quicker.
"When the track was fully wet we were fastest and in dry conditions we were top six but just got pushed back to eighth at the end. When everyone was on a level playing field we were only about two 10ths of a second off the race pace of (Marco) Barba who has a lot of experience in World Series."
After a luckless season in Eurocup Formula Renault this year, the 2007 Formula Renault UK Vice-Champion absolutely excelled on his race debut in the British Formula 3 International Series at Donington Park in early October, proving just what he's capable of in the higher echelons of the sport.
With his first ever run in World Series by Renault now having gone so well too, Dean is currently taking stock of the opportunities available before committing to further testing in the coming weeks.
"We don't have any more testing scheduled at the minute but I think we're most likely to be back out in a Formula 3 car in the next few weeks", added Dean, "I really did enjoy the World Series run at Paul Ricard, the car is very quick at race pace but the toughest part is getting it to be quick on a single qualifying lap.
"The circuit itself is fantastic, it's probably the best track you can ever go to but it's just a shame the weather was patchy. It would have been nice to have a full day in the dry or a full day in the wet. When it rains on and off you're not able to truly see where everyone is compared to each other as conditions are changing constantly."
Double debut as Smith enjoys maiden Megane Trophy run too The day prior to his World Series debut, Dean had the chance to try out one of Renault Sport's Eurocup Megane Trophy silhouette race cars for the first time at Paul Ricard and he was again in typically strong form at the head of the times before others started to use new sets of tyres.
Running with the Oregon Team the British ace had a very rare outing in a saloon car, his first since being invited to be the guest driver of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB 'VIP' car at Rockingham, Northamptonshire, earlier in the year.
Producing 330bhp from its 3.5-litre V6 engine, the Megane Trophy is a serious piece of kit and Dean thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to run with a roof over his head for a change!
"The Megane was good, I really enjoyed it and we were quickest which was great on my debut". Said Dean, "We didn't want to use new tyres, we wanted to save budget, so when everyone had fresh rubber we slipped down the times as my tyres were way best their best then. It was good though, the two days at Paul Ricard were great."