FAULTLESS SMITH MOVES STEP CLOSER TO TITLE CROWN MANOR COMPETITION'S DEAN SMITH (WOLVERHAMPTON) EDGED ONE STEP CLOSER TO THE 2009 MICHELIN FORMULA RENAULT UK CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE BY SCORING MAXIMUM POINTS DURING ROUNDS 17 AND 18 OF THE ONE-MAKE ...
FAULTLESS SMITH MOVES STEP CLOSER TO TITLE CROWN
MANOR COMPETITION'S DEAN SMITH (WOLVERHAMPTON) EDGED ONE STEP CLOSER TO THE 2009 MICHELIN FORMULA RENAULT UK CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE BY SCORING MAXIMUM POINTS DURING ROUNDS 17 AND 18 OF THE ONE-MAKE SERIES AT NORTHAMPTONSHIRE'S ROCKINGHAM MOTOR SPEEDWAY ON 19TH/20TH SEPTEMBER.
THE 2007 VICE CHAMPION PRODUCED TWO SUPERB LIGHTS-TO-FLAG VICTORIES, TOGETHER WITH TWO NGK FASTEST LAPS, TO TAKE A CLEAN SWEEP OF THE POINTS AND EXTENDED HIS LEAD IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP TO 25 POINTS (INCLUDING DROPPED SCORES) OVER NEAREST RIVAL FORTEC MOTORSPORT'S JAMES CALADO (WORCESTER).
CALADO, IN HIS RACING STEPS FOUNDATION BACKED CAR, COULD ONLY MANAGE ONE PODIUM OVER THE WEEKEND WITH A SECOND IN ROUND 17 WITH ALPINE MOTORSPORT'S DEAN STONEMAN (SOUTHAMPTON) SECURING THE OTHER PODIUM SPOT IN THE ACTION-PACKED RACE. MEANWHILE HITECH JUNIOR'S JORDON OAKES (HOPTON ON SEA) MADE A WELCOME RETURN TO FORM BY FINISHING SECOND IN ROUND 18 WITH CRS RACING'S HARRY TINCKNELL (EXETER) CLAIMING THE REMAINING PODIUM AND ALSO BOTH GRADUATE CUP WINS. TINCKNELL'S PERFORMANCE NOW MEANS HE NEEDS JUST SIX POINTS FROM THE FINAL TWO ROUNDS AT BRANDS HATCH GP CIRCUIT ON OCTOBER 3RD/4TH TO SECURE THE GRADUATE HONOURS.
THE WEEKEND ALSO SAW RICHARD DUTTON'S FORTEC MOTORSPORT TEAM SECURE THE HONOURS IN THE ENTRANT COMPETITION.
RENAULT SPORT ALSO ANNOUNCED OVER THE WEEKEND THAT THE NEW FORMULA RENAULT 2.0 RACE CAR IS TO MAKE ITS COMPETITIVE DEBUT AT THE START OF THE 2010 MICHELIN FORMULA RENAULT UK CHAMPIONSHIP.
Smith takes Rockingham double...
A packed Rockingham crowd waited in anticipation for the start of round 18 which was also being broadcast live on ITV4. For the second time in the weekend, Smith held the Michelin pole-position honours -- after lapping in the mid 1m 15s, well inside Alexander Sim's lap record (1m 16.178s), during Saturday's qualifying session -- with Tincknell alongside him. Oakes and Fortec Motorsport's Oli Webb (Knutsford) lined up on row two with Calado in fifth.
As the lights went out for the start of the 16-lap race, it was Smith who made the best start to lead into Turn 1 with Oakes moving into second and Tincknell in third. Calado had also been able to get ahead of Webb to move into fourth but the race was soon brought under control of the Safety Car on lap two after title hopeful Stoneman and CRS Racing's Josh Scott (Milton Keynes) made contact at School Straight.
Racing resumed on lap four with the race distance increased to 18 laps. Not for the first time this season, Smith timed the re-start to perfection to lead once more followed by Oakes and 17-year-old Tincknell.
This time there was nothing to stop Smith pulling away with the 21-year-old quickly establishing a healthy lead. As the race progressed, Smith continued to press while Calado was looking increasingly frustrated at not being able to catch the CRS Racing car of Tincknell. Meanwhile in the midfield, Harry's team-mate Euan Hankey (Somerset) was running well in sixth until a spin halfway through the race saw him drop down the order. Further down the field, Driver entry Michael Lyons (Essex) -- who was awarded the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day -- was enjoying one of his best races of the year in 10th position.
Out in front, Smith was in a class of his own building on his lead lap by lap and setting the NGK fastest lap soon after with a time of 1m 16.299s (91.53mph average). Oakes, who was last on the podium in round one at Brands Hatch, was on course for his best result of the season with second place with Tincknell also heading for his first podium since Oulton Park (round seven).
Smith started his 18th and final lap with a cushion of more than five seconds and duly completed his last 1.94-mile lap to take the chequered flag and his sixth win of the season. Oakes came good to secure second with Tincknell -- who had looked strong all weekend -- in third as well as the leading Graduate Cup driver. Calado finished fourth with team-mate Webb -- who endured a disappointing weekend by his high standards -- rounding off the top five.
Saturday's round 17 saw Smith line up on the start grid as Michelin pole-sitter with Calado alongside him on the front row. CRS Racing dominated row two with Graduate Cup driver Tincknell and Hankey leaving Stoneman and Webb in fifth and sixth.
As the lights went out it was Smith who took full advantage of his P1 place to lead followed by Calado as the field headed into Turn 1 and onto the tight Deene Hairpin. Scott had also made a good start from seventh on the grid but had judged to have jumped the start by the Clerk of the Course handing him a drive-through penalty.
Meanwhile as Smith braked for the hairpin on lap one, Calado made a move up the inside but the 21-year-old defended his line to hold onto the lead. Webb however saw his race come to an early end after contact in the midfield caused him to spin.
Out in front, Smith, with a clear track in front of him, was already developing a lead in the opening stages of the race and setting the NGK fastest lap, along with a new lap record (1m 15.935s), on lap four. Calado, who later commented he was suffering from a lack of rear grip, was finding it hard to match Smith for pace and allowing Stoneman, who was now running in third, to gain on the 20-year-old.
Smith continued to push his Manor Competition car while behind a great battle was developing between team-mates Tincknell and Hankey for fourth and fifth places. Manor Competition's David McDonald (Ewell) was also running well in sixth despite starting 11th on the grid as was Oakes.
With no change in the top two, third place Stoneman was beginning to be caught by Tincknell but the Southampton driver -- who later commented that his rear tyres were fading -- managed to hang on as the laps counted down.
Smith -- who was awarded the ELF/Atol driver of the Day -- began his final lap with a cushion of more than six seconds over Calado before shortly exiting Brook for the last time to take the chequered flag and more championship points. Calado took second with Stoneman rounding off the podium spots. Tincknell finished fourth and the leading Graduate Cup driver with team-mate Hankey in fifth.
Commenting on his performance Smith said: "It's been a brilliant weekend for me but credit has to go to the team who have done a fantastic job setting-up the car. In round 17 I got a good start and although James made a move at the Deene Hairpin I managed to defend and hold onto the lead. I had the pace in round 18 too and after the re-start it was just a case of keeping my head down until the chequered flag. Although there are only two rounds left, I'm trying not to think about the championship and instead just concentrate on scoring more points."
Commenting on his weekend Calado said: "It's been frustrating for me this weekend. In the first race [round 17] I just didn't have the room at the hairpin to risk a move and after that Dean was away. The car has not felt 100% right though due to a problem with the rear shock which has led to a lack of rear grip."
Oakes, who finished second in round 18, said: "It's been a long time coming but I'm really happy to be on the podium again this season. Dean was in a class of his own and I just couldn't keep up with him but I'm very content with second."
Commenting on his third place in round 17, Stoneman said: "My rear tyres were starting to fade towards the end which allowed Tincknell to catch but I managed to hold him off and grab another podium."
Tincknell, who finished third in round 18, added: "I'm pleased to be on the podium again but my main concern is the Graduate Cup title. Round 18 was a good race and after the re-start I just concentrated on not making any mistakes."
The deciding rounds (19 and 20) of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship take place at Kent's Brands Hatch GP circuit on 3rd/4th October.
-credit: frenault uk