Dean Smith - Leading at SnettertonMichelin Formula Renault UK Championship title contender Dean Smith edged a step closer to the overall lead in the driver standings at Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk on Sunday, 2nd August; two more podium finishes for the Manor Competition ace closing the gap to a mere six points.

The New Ollerton-based squad was in fine form all weekend at the 1.95-mile track. While Smith continued his unbroken podium run in rounds 13 and 14 with a pair of second place finishes, less experienced team-mate David McDonald produced his best and most consistent performances of the season with a superb fourth place in race two backing up an earlier top six.

Not to be outdone, Dutch driver Thomas Hylkema recorded his third top 10 result of the campaign in round 13 but the second race proved to be a luckless one for the second year driver when he was taken out of proceedings at the Esses on the opening lap through no fault of his own.

Talented category rookie Alice Powell produced impressive pace in qualifying and looked very well placed to achieve her season’s best performances but the 16-year-old didn’t get the results she deserved after two unlucky race outings. With Smith and McDonald providing a brace of strong finishes each though, Manor Competition has climbed into second position in the entrant standings.

Reflecting on the team’s overall performance, co-owner and race engineer Sarah Shaw said: “We’re very happy with the way things went in general this weekend. Two more podiums for Dean is exactly what he needed for his championship bid while David produced the best two races we’ve seen from him all year, he really did a fantastic job.

“Thomas’ drive in race one was fantastic but the luck just wasn’t with him at all in the second one when he got taken out on lap one. For Alice, it was a similar story really. She had excellent pace all weekend but her potential couldn’t be fulfilled due to nothing other than bad luck really.”

As a mark of respect to the late Henry Surtees, his former Formula Renault UK team competed at Snetterton with a commemorative decal on the nose cone of each of its cars in remembrance of the talented teenager who tragically lost his life in a Formula 2 event at Brands Hatch a fortnight ago.

Smith lined up third on the grid for the first Snetterton encounter on Sunday morning and he made a good getaway to move into second place as McDonald made the most of an equally fine start to move up into fourth position ahead of championship points leader Oli Webb.

The best getaway of all though came from Hylkema who enjoyed a stunning opening lap. Lining up an uncharacteristic 18th on the grid, he scythed his way through the midfield to emerge on lap two in 13th position behind team-mate Powell, herself up from 14th on the grid.

Unfortunately slipping back to third at the Esses on the first lap behind James Calado, Smith had good pace even though he had some understeer issues to contend with. On lap 16 though, he had the chance to move into second place when front-runner Dean Stoneman slipped back to fifth.

McDonald looked very rapid and actually posted a quicker best lap time than Smith at mid-distance having been forced to fightback into the top six when he ran wide at the Bomb Hole on lap three and lost three positions. Nonetheless, sixth place was a great result.

On lap nine, Powell and Hylkema continued to run line astern and were in 10th and 11th positions respectively but a moment for the former at Sear Corner while attempting to pass category race winner Jesse Krohn for ninth place saw her slip back to an eventual finish of 16th. Hylkema, therefore, moved into 10th place where he remained to the chequered flag.

Round 14 started perfectly for pole-sitter Smith as he made a good getaway to lead Stoneman and Calado with McDonald once again getting the better of Webb off the line to move ahead into the top four where he would remain to the finish to match his season’s best result.

For Hylkema, things weren’t so enjoyable this time around as he was taken out of the action at the Esses after being caught up in a collision between team-mates Harry Tincknell and Lewis Williamson on lap one. It was a big disappointment for the Dutchman as his pace had been excellent throughout the weekend, right from the opening practice session on Friday morning.

Powell also ended her race in retirement, another strong run ruined through no fault of her own when she was forced to take avoiding action as eighth placed Fredrik Blomstedt’s car was pitched into a spin when the suspension failed.

With nowhere to go other than onto the grass to miss a collision with Blomstedt’s car, Powell unfortunately picked up damage to her own rear suspension in doing so. The outcome was all the more disappointing as she was a superb ninth at the time with just a couple of laps to go but the incident brought out the red flags.

Smith lost the lead to Stoneman at the Esses on lap nine but during the final few laps he worked out a way to extract more pace from his car and edged closer and closer to his rival. Posting the fastest lap a couple of tours prior to the stoppage, he really started to pile on the pressure and had the race run its full intended distance the result could have been another win for the Manor star.

There is now a four-week break in the Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship calendar with rounds 15 and 16 of the season scheduled to take place on 29th/30th August at Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire.

2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship Standings (after Rd14):
2nd Dean Smith, 318pts; 10th David McDonald, 167pts; 14th Thomas Hylkema, 89pts; 20th Alice Powell, 57pts

2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd14):
7th Alice Powell, 57pts

2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Team Standings (after Rd14):
2nd Manor Competition, 513pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.