Dean SmithWith just two races remaining in the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship, Dean Smith has opened up a healthy 25 point lead in the driver standings following an awe-inspiring double victory at Rockingham in Northamptonshire over the weekend, 19th/20th September.

In a class of his own throughout the course of the ninth event of the season, the Wolverhampton racer didn’t put a wheel wrong as he not only scorched to his fifth and sixth wins of the year but also secured a brace of pole position starts and added a maximum 68-point total to his tally courtesy of a pair of fastest race laps – including a new International Super Sports Car Circuit lap record.

Making it 13 podium finishes from the last 14 rounds, the 21-year-old’s season continues to be a masterclass in consistency and his pace this weekend was nothing short of exceptional. Heading to Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit a fortnight from now, 3rd/4th October, Dean is in a fantastic position to fight for his first title victory since becoming Formula BMW UK Champion in 2005.

“It’s been an unbelievable weekend, the car has been absolutely perfect and the team has done a fantastic job”, said the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star, “First practice was good, in second practice things were perfect and in qualifying we were strong – especially in the second session which showed what we really had, to be four 10ths of a second quicker than anyone else.

“The first race was fantastic. It’s always hard work and you have to be careful not to make any mistakes but the car felt so good and I was able to keep extending my lead lap after lap which is always a great feeling. In the second one the car was absolutely perfect as the race progressed, even stronger than on Saturday. The weekend couldn’t have gone any better for us.”

Qualifying on pole position for round 17 with a time of 1m15.298 seconds (92.75mph), Dean got away well at the start and although championship rival James Calado attempted to go with him side-by-side around Turn 1 of the Rockingham Oval banking, the pole-sitter held firm into the hairpin.

Into lap two, Dean’s advantage was already seven 10ths of a second and he proceeded to post faster times than anyone else on each of the encounter’s 16 laps. Storming to a winning margin of 6.5 seconds, on the fourth tour he also posted a new benchmark time for Rockingham with a lap of 1m15.935 seconds (91.97mph) – the only racer under the 1m16 second barrier.

In Sunday’s 18th round, which Dean again started from pole after posting a qualifying time of 1m15.675 seconds (92.28mph), some four 10ths of a second quicker than his closest challenger, he made a better getaway to open up a good lead immediately.

The Safety Car was deployed at the start of lap three due to an early incident and at the re-start on the fifth tour, the Manor Competition ace made no mistakes as he judged it to perfection and pulled away once again.

Continually building his lead as on Saturday, Dean pumped in faster and faster lap times which improved throughout the race. His quickest lap, 1m16.299 seconds (91.53mph), actually came on the 15th tour and on lap 18 he took the chequered flag by a margin of 4.5 seconds as he coasted across the line to celebrate with his team along the pitwall.

While this weekend was perfect in every way for Dean, he knows two solid results during the season finale at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit two weeks from now, 3rd/4th October, will be absolutely crucial and nothing can be taken for granted at the Kent track, regardless of his current points lead.

“We need to make the first race at Brands Hatch sweet, hopefully we can get a win or at the very least be right up there to score some big points”, he added, “You never know what can happen though. The last time I ran at Brands GP track was when I won Formula BMW in 2005 so it’s been a long time. I know how to win races there though so hopefully I can do it again.”

Provisional 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship Standings (after Rd18):
1st Dean Smith, 434pts; 2nd James Calado, 409pts; 3rd Oli Webb, 386pts

Provisional 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship (after Rd18 – minus drop scores):
1st Dean Smith, 434pts; 2nd James Calado, 409pts; 3rd Dean Stoneman, 380pts