FIRST WIN OF SEASON FOR MANOR & SMITH AT DONINGTON Manor Competition returned to winning ways at Donington Park in Leicestershire on Sunday, 17th May, with an outstanding lights-to-flag victory for Dean Smith during the fifth round of the 2009...
FIRST WIN OF SEASON FOR MANOR & SMITH AT DONINGTON
Manor Competition returned to winning ways at Donington Park in Leicestershire on Sunday, 17th May, with an outstanding lights-to-flag victory for Dean Smith during the fifth round of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship.
The 21-year-old from Wolverhampton, who made a late entry to the season ahead of the third race of the year at Thruxton, has been working hard with Manor co-owners Tony and Sarah Shaw in recent weeks and the fruits of their labour were there for all to see on Sunday morning.
Securing pole position for both of the weekend's races, Smith was never headed in round five as he claimed his first victory since returning to Formula Renault UK. In the second of the Donington Park encounters he finished a highly creditable second to bag a whopping total of 60 points.
Beginning the weekend 17th in the championship after a difficult time at Thruxton, Smith has rocketed into the top eight in the driver standings and looks very well placed to mount a sustained title bid as the year progresses with the Nottinghamshire squad.
Team-mate David McDonald produced easily his best ever performance in Formula Renault UK with a superb drive to fourth place in round five, finishing ahead of championship leader Dean Stoneman after a titanic, wheel-to-wheel battle. The pair did bang wheels on more than one occasion but the Surrey ace simply wouldn't be beaten and held on for a terrific result.
Yet more fantastic news for the Manor contingent came with Alice Powell's career-best drive in the first race to claim her first Graduate Cup class victory. Finishing in ninth place, she raced incredibly with a drive belying her experience to keep a train of half a dozen cars at bay, soaking up every last bit of pressure. Her efforts also earned the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day accolade.
On the flip side, round five wasn't the best of outings for Thomas Hylkema, a 20th place finish at least seeing him grab a championship point. In the second of the weekend's races though, the Dutchman came to the fore with a well deserved top 10 finish having started 16th on the grid -- his best result so far this year.
Unfortunately for both McDonald and Powell the second race wasn't a success with the former ending the encounter in 20th spot after stalling on the grid because a trackside beacon interfered with his dash readout and he wasn't able to see the rev counter -- a bitterly disappointing stroke of bad luck.
Powell was forced to retire after an initial excursion into the barriers at Coppice. She did rejoin the circuit after being pushed back onto the track by marshals but the gravel which entered the engine bay caused a problem with the auxiliary belt and, subsequently, blew the engine. The 16-year-old therefore pulled off on the inside at McLeans.
Commenting on the event, Manor's Sarah Shaw said: "It's been a great weekend for the team overall and to have a driver back on the top step of the podium is a fantastic feeling. Dean did a superb job in qualifying to get pole for both races and his win was tremendous. We worked hard on the set-up at Croft during the recent official test and that paid off for us.
"David drove an incredible race in the first one to keep (Dean) Stoneman behind him, he really did a superb job and is improving all of the time. He's beginning to show the sort of pace that should see him fighting for the podium very soon."
She added: "Alice did an absolutely unbelievable job in that first race, it was an amazing drive to keep so many cars behind. When you take into account she missed the whole pre-event test due to school exams, the performance speaks for itself.
"The first race was an unfortunate one for Thomas which was a great shame as he should have had a top 10 finish. He drove well in the second one to take his best result of the year so far and hopefully he can build on that at Oulton Park in a couple of weeks."
Manor Competition will return to track action just two weeks from now with rounds seven and eight of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship taking place at Cheshire's Oulton Park Island Circuit over the weekend 30th/31st May.