DOMINANT DOUBLE FOR SMITH LIFTS MANOR INTO CHAMPIONSHIP TOP THREE Nottinghamshire based Michelin Formula Renault UK team Manor Competition enjoyed its best race meeting of the season at Oulton Park Island Circuit over the weekend, 30th/31st May,...
DOMINANT DOUBLE FOR SMITH LIFTS MANOR INTO CHAMPIONSHIP TOP THREE
Nottinghamshire based Michelin Formula Renault UK team Manor Competition enjoyed its best race meeting of the season at Oulton Park Island Circuit over the weekend, 30th/31st May, with Dean Smith racing to a pair of dominant victories to lift the team into third place in the title standings.
While the Wolverhampton 21-year-old has leapt into third place in the driver's championship, his stunning set of results from rounds seven and eight -- added to impressive finishes for team-mates David McDonald, Alice Powell and Thomas Hylkema -- have also lifted Manor into third position in the entrant standings.
Qualifying third on the grid for the first of Sunday's races Smith produced an outstanding effort and after running in second place up until a Safety Car period on lap six, at the re-start he pounced with absolute precision to pass erstwhile leader Harry Tincknell with a perfectly timed move as the race resumed into lap eight. From that point on he was never headed.
Smith then managed to top that performance in round eight with an incredible lights-to-flag victory from pole position. Making a faultless start as he catapulted into Old Hall for the first time, the Manor ace not only recorded his second win of the weekend -- and third of the season -- but he also set a brand new circuit lap record of 1m18.926 seconds (101.53mph).
"What a fantastic weekend", said delighted Manor co-owner Sarah Shaw at the conclusion of the Oulton Park event, "We knew we'd turned a corner at Donington two weeks ago when Dean took his first win of the year but to come here and take another pole position and two more wins is really great and puts us right up there in the championship. Dean did a terrific job, we're all delighted."
McDonald equalled his career best Formula Renault UK finish of fourth position during round seven, the 19-year-old racing very well from sixth on the grid and lapping just three 10ths of a second shy of Smith's pace.
The second encounter wasn't as positive for McDonald as he slipped down the order at the start having been boxed out but he fought back with great determination into a top 13 finish, the result of his combined points tally meaning he is tied in 11th position in the driver standings.
For rookie team-mate Alice Powell, the weekend was a reversal on McDonalds's fortunes in many respects as it was the opening encounter which turned out to be luckless and race two where she enjoyed an excellent result.
Lining up a fantastic eighth on the grid, and as the second highest of the Graduate Cup drivers, the 16-year-old wasn't able to make the most of her tremendous qualifying effort when contact to the rear of her car early on resulted in a very badly damaged rear wing. The Manor team worked wonders to get Powell's car repaired and she eventually rejoined to finish just outside the points.
In round eight, Powell achieved her second best result of the year with a very impressive 10th place finish having emerged victorious from a very entertaining, and closely fought, battle with Dutch team-mate Hylkema -- Powell taking the chequered flag just three 10ths of a second to the good and third in the Graduate Cup.
For Hylkema, Oulton Park undoubtedly marked his most successful and competitive weekend of the season. Climbing through the order from 11th on the grid to seventh place in race one and finishing just four 10ths of a second away from the top six, the performance lifted him into the top 15 in the championship and could well mark a watershed moment.
In round eight, another impressive drive netted the 20-year-old his 11th place result, right on the tail of team-mate Powell, having come through from 15th on the grid at the start. Added to his seventh place points, Hylkema climbed one more place into 14th in the standings.
Further celebrations for the New Ollerton team came at the conclusion of the weekend when Renault Sport UK announced Smith was the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day for round seven and Powell was awarded the same accolade for her performance in round eight.
Shaw added: "This has been a fantastic team performance. Obviously the two wins are the highlight but David, Alice and Thomas each raced brilliantly and all three achieved some really excellent results. Everything seems to be falling into place nicely for us at the moment but we're not resting on our laurels, we'll keep pushing on to get faster and stronger as the season progresses."
Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire is the next venue on the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship calendar and will host rounds nine and 10 of the season a fortnight from now over the weekend 13th/14th June.
2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship Standings (after Rd8): 3rd Dean Smith, 146pts; =11th David McDonald, 85pts; 14th Thomas Hylkema, 55pts; 19th Alice Powell, 42pts
2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK 'Graduate Cup' Standings (after Rd8): 7th Alice Powell, 42pts
2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Team Standings (after Rd8): 3rd Manor Competition, 265pts