INCIDENT PACKED WEEKEND FOR SMITH AT HOCKENHEIM Dean Smith overcame terrible misfortune to produce a pair of typically strong race performances at Hockenheim over the weekend, 24th/25th July, during the fifth race meeting of the 2010 GP3 ...
INCIDENT PACKED WEEKEND FOR SMITH AT HOCKENHEIM
Dean Smith overcame terrible misfortune to produce a pair of typically strong race performances at Hockenheim over the weekend, 24th/25th July, during the fifth race meeting of the 2010 GP3 Series.
The Wolverhampton racer, equal 10th in the driver standings heading into the ninth and 10th rounds of the season, had hoped for a trouble-free maiden experience of the German track but the event was littered with highly unfortunate problems for the Racing Steps Foundation-backed 22-year-old.
Showing fantastic determination and professionalism to battle back through the adversity Dean underlined his pace and racecraft well. Just missing out on a top eight points finish in Saturday afternoon's encounter, the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner was forced to fight through from the tail of the field in Sunday's race -- having been driven off the circuit -- to post a great 12th place.
"It's been a really tough weekend but we fought as hard as we could", said Dean, "We don't know why but we're really losing time on the straights. In the middle sector alone, which is just two corners and a couple of short straights, we lost around 0.6 seconds each lap. The car set-up is good and the team has done a great job again but there's something wrong which we need to resolve."
The BRDC Superstar's weekend didn't get off to the smoothest of starts during the rain-affected practice session on Friday, 23rd July, when damage to his rear wing after a spin limited his running to just five full laps.
During qualifying on Saturday morning, the Tomax managed racer showed no signs of a lack of track time and held a top four placing heading into the final 10 minutes of the session. With the track surface drying after earlier torrential rain, the best times all came during the final moments but Dean missed out on a good grid slot when traffic on his last couple of laps prevented improvement.
The original start to round nine was abandoned but when the race finally got underway Dean made a good start from 15th on the grid and looked comfortable. At the hairpin though, he was boxed out to 16th place just before the race came under Safety Car conditions due to a pile-up at the same turn.
No sooner had the race been re-started on lap four than it was neutralised again, this time after a huge spin for Alexander Rossi which came as a result of contact with Daniel Morad as the pair diced wheel to wheel with Michael Christensen exiting the first corner. This elevated Dean to 13th place.
The second re-start came on lap seven and Dean immediately made progress as he moved into 12th position at the hairpin. Running strongly on the fringe of the top 10, by lap 15 he had moved into 11th place and on the final tour he leapt into ninth as a result of contact between Roberto Merhi and Josef Newgarden -- finishing just one place away from the 'reverse grid' pole start for round 10.
Sunday morning's race began well for the Carlin driver as he moved into eighth although he had to drop back into ninth position on the outside line into the hairpin. Staying out of trouble as he turned in for the corner, Dean was then pushed off the circuit as two cars on the inside made contact and cannoned into the side of his Renault-engined Dallara.
Dropping him to 24th, and last, position Dean had to enter the pits at the end of the lap and after replacing a punctured tyre he returned to the track. Due to the multi-car contact at the hairpin, the race came under Safety Car conditions so he was at least able to rejoin the end of the train of cars.
Following a lengthy six lap Safety Car period, the race resumed on the eighth tour and within a couple of laps Dean had climbed into 18th position. In a race once again notable for a large number of incidents, Dean did manage to gain more places before the end -- the finish actually coming under Safety Car conditions on lap 17 -- as he took a deserved top 12 result.
Although disappointed to have come away from Hockenheim with no points, Dean remains equal 10th in the championship standings. His sole focus now is on the next two rounds of the GP3 Series which take place in less than a week's time, 31st July/1st August, at the Hungaroring in Budapest -- racing in support of the FIA Formula One World Championship's Hungarian Grand Prix.
2010 GP3 Series driver standings (after Rd10): =10th Dean Smith & Pal Varhaug, 10pts