Dean SmithFor the first time this season, Manor Competition’s Dean Smith has taken the lead in the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship driver standings following the 15th and 16th rounds of the campaign at Silverstone National Circuit over the weekend, 29th/30th August.

The 21-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star took his eleventh podium finish of the year during round 16 on Sunday with a fine drive to second place and is now tied on 366 points at the top of the championship with Oli Webb. With Formula Renault UK’s ‘drop-score’ ruling applied though, the Manor Competition ace actually has a seven point lead over James Calado.

While delighted to see Wolverhampton-based Smith ascend to the head of the driver standings, the Nottinghamshire squad’s three other drivers, David McDonald, Alice Powell and Thomas Hylkema, each had a frustrating weekend with separate incidents costing them all in both encounters.

Surrey star McDonald raced competitively and although a couple of moments did cost him vital time and track position, he at least scored points in both outings with an 11th place finish in round 15, from 13th on the grid, and 14th position in round 16, from 16th on the grid. While not the results he was hoping for, McDonald at least retains 10th place in the championship.

Race two was certainly the high-point of McDonald’s weekend in terms of the racing and by lap seven he had risen into ninth place following a great move around the outside of Will Stevens at Brooklands. On lap nine though, an unfortunate spin dropped him down the order and he subsequently slipped to 14th place before the finish.

Powell and Hylkema both failed to finish the opening race on the same lap as each other ironically, the Chipping Norton lady racer involved in an incident with Australian Josh Scott at Becketts while Hylkema was pitched into a spin and a retirement of his own on the fourth tour.

Both Manor drivers had been running strongly at the time, Hylkema driving well in 14th having started the race down in 20th place and Powell in 16th position having gained a place on her starting slot of 17th.

Round 16 offered better fortune for the Dutchman as he scored points for 16th place although he was on course for better at mid-distance. Powell once again had the disappointment of another retirement, a spin into the gravel on lap one compounding a difficult weekend at her home track.

Smith, meanwhile, achieved a fifth place finish in race one to add to his round 16 podium. Getting a great start, he was boxed in at the first corner and although grabbing fifth place from Bahraini driver Isa Yousif at Brooklands on lap one he wasn’t able to make any further progress. Although quicker than Harry Tincknell ahead, there just wasn’t the opportunity for a clean pass to be made.

Looking back at the Silverstone weekend, Manor Competition co-owner Sarah Shaw said: “We’re obviously delighted Dean has moved to the top of the championship but we’re all a bit disappointed we weren’t stronger this weekend on the whole. To be on the podium again is fantastic but we had hoped for a bit more, especially for Thomas, David and Alice who all had bad luck.

“It just seemed to be one of those events for us really, David raced well but a couple of moments meant he didn’t score as well as he should and Thomas and Alice were both very unlucky to pick up retirements. It’s been quite frustrating but now we’re looking ahead and turning our attention to Rockingham where we aim to have all four drivers back where they should be.”

There are now just three weeks to wait until the potentially decisive penultimate race meeting of the 2009 season, rounds 17 and 18, which will take place at Rockingham in Northamptonshire over the weekend 19th/20th September.

2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship Standings (after Rd16):
1st Dean Smith, 366pts; 10th David McDonald, 184pts; 16th Thomas Hylkema, 94pts; 21st Alice Powell, 57pts

2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd16):
8th Alice Powell, 57pts

2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Team Standings (after Rd16):
3rd Manor Competition, 578pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography