STONEMAN SCORES ELUSIVE FIRST WIN AT SNETTERTON Alpine Motorsport's Dean Stoneman (Southampton) finally secured his first win of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship during rounds 13 and 14 at Norfolk's Snetterton circuit on August...
STONEMAN SCORES ELUSIVE FIRST WIN AT SNETTERTON
Alpine Motorsport's Dean Stoneman (Southampton) finally secured his first win of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship during rounds 13 and 14 at Norfolk's Snetterton circuit on August 1st/2nd. The single-seater racer, who recently turned 19, has had a brace of podiums so far this season but had to wait until round 14 -- broadcast live on ITV4 -- to claim his first visit to the top step of the podium.
Meanwhile, Fortec Motorsport's James Calado (Worcester) took the honours in a thrilling round 13 with a superb drive along with a third-place in round 14 to earn the most Championship points (59) of any driver of the weekend. Manor Competition racer and 2007 Vice Champion Dean Smith (Wolverhampton) secured two second places to close the gap on current Championship leader Fortec Motorsport driver Oli Webb (Knutsford) to just six points. The ever consistent Webb though still came away from the weekend with the final podium spot after a third-place in round 13.
In the Graduate Cup, Hitech Junior's Nick Yelloly (Solihull) produced a season best to claim his first rookie win in round 13 while round 14 saw Fortec Motorsport's Will Stevens (Oxshott) take the honours -- reducing the gap on Graduate Cup leader CRS Racing's Harry Tincknell (Exeter) to just eight points.
The weekend also proved one of reflection with many of the teams opting to carry tributes on their cars in memory of former Formula Renault UK driver Henry Surtees who tragically died last month.
Stoneman scores first victory...
A packed Snetterton crowd waited in anticipation for the start of round 14 which saw Smith head the field as Michelin pole-sitter after lapping in the 1min 04s in Saturday's qualifying session -- well under the current lap record for the 1.9520-mile circuit.
As the lights went out for the start of the 18-lap race, Smith made a good start to lead the field into Riches followed by Stoneman, Calado and Manor Competition's David McDonald (Ewell) who had been able to get the jump on Webb for fourth.
Smith had little time to pull away though as a spin by CRS Racing's Lewis Williamson (Golspie) at the Esses on the opening lap caused him to make contact with team-mate Tincknell, Hitech Junior's Jordan Oakes (Hopton on Sea) and Manor Competition's Thomas Hylkema (NED). The resulting contact meant all but Oakes were unable to continue and forcing the Clerk of the Course to deploy the Safety Car on lap two.
Racing continued on lap five with the new race distance increased to 21 laps. Not the first time this season, Smith made a good restart to lead once more followed closely by Stoneman and Calado. Just behind the leaders, Webb was battling hard with McDonald as the 18-year-old tried to regain his place while Stevens was in control in the Graduate Cup race.
On lap eight, Stoneman got a good run out of Sears to close in on Smith on Revett Straight. As the two headed into the Essses, Stoneman cut inside to pass Smith -- who later commented that he was suffering from oversteer -- for the lead.
A few laps later, Calado tried to follow Stoneman's example and pass Smith through Riches but Smith was able to close the door and keep the Racing Steps Foundation driver at bay. With a clear track in front of him, Stoneman was able to pull away, developing more than a second lead and briefly holding the NGK fastest lap before Smith eventually took the honours a few laps later.
As the race progressed, the chasing pair of Smith and Calado were beginning to catch Stoneman who was now lapping in the mid 1min 05s. Unfortunately for them though, the race was shortly red flagged and stopped after Manor Competition's Alice Powell (Chipping Norton) -- who had been running well in ninth position -- was forced to avoid the spinning Fortec Motorsport car of Fredrik Blomstedt (Northampton) at Russell resulting in her car coming to a halt in a dangerous position.
With the race halted after 16-laps, the positions were declared final leaving Stoneman to pick up his first victory of the 2009 season -- a feat which has eluded him despite four visits to the podium this year. Smith finished second with Calado in third and McDonald holding onto fourth much to the frustration of Webb. Stevens -- who was awarded the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day -- finished as the leading Graduate Cup driver.
Calado takes win number five...
Round 13 held earlier on Sunday saw Calado line up as Michelin pole-sitter following Saturday's qualifying session which was ended prematurely for safety reasons following a spin by CRS Racing's Matias Laine (FIN). Stoneman joined Calado on the front row with Smith in third and Webb in fourth.
As the lights went out it was Stoneman and Smith who made the better start leaving the three cars to go three-abreast into Riches. Stoneman managed to emerge as the race leader followed by Smith and then pole-sitter Calado.
With the rest of field safely through, Calado turned his attention to making up for his poor start and retaking Smith through the Esses on the opening lap. The first lap also saw McDonald get passed Webb to move into fourth with Williamson in sixth and Yelloly running a season best seventh. With no change at the front, lap three saw McDonald run wide at the Bomb Hole dropping him from fourth to seventh with the 19-year-old gaining back a place a few laps later.
By the halfway stage a great battle was developing between CRS Racing team-mates Josh Scott (Milton Keynes) and Tincknell for ninth and 10th places with the two cars eventually making contact with Scott coming off worse and dropping well down the order.
Meanwhile at the front, a determined Calado made a brave move around the outside of race-leader Stoneman through the Esses to take the lead, leaving the 20-year-old to pull away and setting the NGK fastest lap and a new lap record in the process (1min 05.041s -- 0.26s quicker than previous holder Rikki Christodoulou).
In the battle for the remaining podium spot, Webb was now starting to catch Smith with Williamson running well in fifth followed by McDonald and Yelloly as the leading Graduate Cup driver.
As the race entered the final few laps, Calado had developed a sizeable cushion over retuning driver Stoneman before the 19-year-old ran wide through the Bomb Hole dropping him down to fifth.
Calado started his 18th and final lap with a comfortable three second lead over second-place Smith who was now working hard to keep Webb in his mirrors. The chequered flag belonged to Calado though and together with the NGK fastest lap, the Worcester driver crossed the line with maximum Championship points. Smith held on to take second, a mere 0.210s ahead of third-place Webb, with Williamson in fourth and Stoneman, who had lead for much of the race, rounding off the top five.
Yelloly picked up his best result of the season and his maiden Graduate Cup win with seventh while RS Racing's Ryan Singleton (Llanfairfechan) produced one of his best results to finish 15th and collect the ELF/Atol Driver of the Day.
Commenting on his maiden victory Stoneman said: "This is the win we've been looking for all season and it's finally come! It's a massive confidence boost and a turning point in the Championship for me. I was a little disappointed with how things turned out in round 13, which was down to my tyres going off."
Commenting on his performance at the weekend Calado said: "Snetterton's been a good weekend for me, scoring more than any other driver and racking up another win. Round 13 was one of my best ever races with two good moves on the two Deans. I suffered from bad luck towards the start of the season but this weekend was fairly faultless and I feel I've done everything I can to keep myself in contention for the Championship title...I just need the other drivers to share my misfortune!"
Commenting on his two second places this weekend, Smith said: "It's been a good weekend for me and the team and we know we just need to keep doing what we're doing. The car felt like it had a little bit of understeer in round 13 which the team corrected for the second race but it took five or six laps for me to get used to it, in which time Stoneman had been able to get passed."
Championship leader Webb commented after round 13: "The Championship is getting really close now. Round 13 was a good race with perfect conditions and at one point I thought I might be able to catch Smith but I ran out of laps. Stoneman was also unlucky and he did very well to keep his car on the track after running wide at the Bomb Hole."
Rounds 15 and 16 of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship take place at Silverstone National circuit on 29th /30th August 2009.
-credit: renault uk