FOR ESTORIL TOP 10Dean Smith performed well at Estoril in Portugal yesterday afternoon, Saturday, 27th September, to secure his third top 10 finish of the Eurocup Formula Renault season – damage to one of his car’s barge boards making any kind of points-scoring result a very tough prospect.The 20-year-old from Wolverhampton, driving for British squad Fortec Motorsport, battled serious understeer throughout the 11th round of the season after his car suffered damage very early on in the race. However, he valiantly held on to 10th position and still managed to lap within 0.4 seconds of top four pace to secure another points result.After running very strongly during collective testing on Friday, 26th September, the West Midlands racer headed into this morning’s Group A qualifying session confident of a strong run and the potential to secure a season’s best qualifying performance.With track conditions having changed though, Dean found his car to be less competitive than on Friday and he was disappointed with the 12th fastest time of 1m 37.080 seconds (155.1 km/h), eight 10ths of a second shy of pole position. Nonetheless, his performance did allow him to progress through to the all-important Superpole session.During Superpole, having made some changes to the car’s set-up, Dean was just half a second away from the quickest time of all but, such was the competitiveness of the period, he was still further down the order than he would have liked in 13th place – his best lap a time of 1m 36.858 seconds (155.4 km/h).The British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star was on course to lap quicker with around four minutes of Superpole remaining after posting his best first sector of the session. However, a red flag incident prevented this from happening. Subsequently, two drivers received penalties and so Dean would start today’s race from 11th on the grid.Making a good getaway, Dean moved into the top 10 almost immediately and then, on lap two, the Safety Car was deployed. By this point, one of the barge boards on Dean’s car had broken away so, from that point on, he struggled with major understeer.At the re-start on lap seven, the Fortec driver tried to stay as close as possible to the competitors ahead and while managing to remain on terms, the problem with his car prevented Dean from making a serious challenge. Even so, claiming his second top 10 finish on the trot was a good return all things considered.“I’m fairly pleased to have finished in the points again”, said Dean, “In practice everything was good but then the track changed quite a lot ahead of qualifying and we just didn’t have the same pace. We qualified for Superpole though which was the main thing.“At the start of the race I managed to gain one position straight away and then we had a Safety Car for a few laps. Unfortunately, one of the barge boards came off the car which made it very hard to stay in the top 10 as I had tons of understeer. It was hard work to try and maintain my place but I managed to.”He added: “Considering the barge board problem, I’m happy enough to have scored a point today and we start eighth tomorrow so I’m hoping for a good run. The car has pretty good pace, we just need it to be in one piece and then we can fight for bigger points!”
Round 12 of the 2008 Eurocup Formula Renault season is timetabled to get underway at approximately 12.45 tomorrow, Sunday, 28th September, at Estoril. Dean’s second fastest time in Superpole of 1m 37.064 seconds was good enough to place him on row four of the grid for today’s race.