Dean SmithAnother breathtaking win for Manor Competition’s Dean Smith at Rockingham in Northamptonshire on Sunday, 20th September, has helped move the Nottinghamshire squad another step closer to its aim of securing the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship drivers’ title.

On a weekend of sheer dominance from the team and its British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star, the 21-year-old was utterly peerless as he backed up an incredible victory during Saturday’s 17th round of the season with an equally outstanding win in round 18 – the latter screened live across the UK on Freeview, cable and digital satellite channel ITV4.

Rapid from the off during Friday’s pre-event test sessions, Manor looked comfortable throughout the weekend. Smith secured pole position for each encounter and went on to convert them both into unchallenged race victories, his fifth and sixth wins of the season.

Also posting the fastest lap in each race, including a new Rockingham lap record on Saturday, Smith took a maximum 68-point haul from the weekend and now leads the driver standings by 25 points from closest rival James Calado.

In addition to Smith’s superb winning double, Manor Competition also had plenty to celebrate with Thomas Hylkema, David McDonald and Alice Powell who each produced some outstanding race performances. Combining the two best results from each race, the team has also moved into second position in the entrant’s championship, 11 points clear of CRS.

During Sunday’s outing, Dutchman Hylkema produced the best performance of his Formula Renault UK career to date with an excellent drive to sixth position. Starting round 18 from ninth on the grid, the 21-year-old held his spot ahead of a short Safety Car period and then moved into seventh place when Jesse Krohn and Lewis Williamson tangled exiting Turn 1.

On the following lap, Hylkema grabbed another place to move into the top six and remained there to the chequered flag on lap 18, crossing the line just nine 10ths of a second behind erstwhile series leader Oli Webb. Furthermore, his best lap was just half a second shy of Smith’s race winning pace.

Single-seater rookie Powell secured a fine 13th place finish in round 18 to add to her third top 12 of the season on Saturday and the 16-year-old therefore maintains her top six position in the Graduate Cup standings for inexperienced competitors.

While race two wasn’t a high-point for McDonald due to a broken front-wing compromising his potential and forcing him to pit on lap seven, his superb top six finish in round 17 easily consolidated his top 10 placing in the championship. Although Sunday was a disappointment for the 19-year-old, he was credited with an 18th place result and therefore still scored a handful of points.

Commenting on the weekend, Manor Competition co-owner Tony Shaw said: “I can’t thank the team enough for the phenomenal work they’ve done this weekend. To win both races in such dominant style with Dean and to see such good performances from Thomas, David and Alice over the course of the weekend is not only credit to them, but also to the team’s hard work.

“The lads have been working tirelessly, both at the workshop and the track, and Sarah’s decision making was second to none. The changes she made between the two qualifying sessions on Saturday were absolutely spot-on.”

Shaw added: “We had a pretty tough weekend at Silverstone last time out and it was hard to decipher why but we all worked together to get our heads around it. This weekend’s results are just reward for the efforts of everyone in the team, I’m absolutely over the moon.”

The all-important final two races of the 2009 season, rounds 19 and 20, will take place a fortnight from now, 3rd/4th October, at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent. The event will mark the first time Formula Renault UK has competed on the full length GP track since the 2005 season.

2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship Standings (after Rd18):
1st Dean Smith, 434; 10th David McDonald, 205pts; 16th Thomas Hylkema, 111pts; 18th Alice Powell, 73pts

2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd18):
6th Alice Powell, 73pts

2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Team Standings (after Rd18):
2nd Manor Competition, 678pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography