TOP FOUR DOUBLEBritish Formula 3 International Series debutant Dean Smith stunned the category regulars during the 2008 season finale at Donington Park today, Sunday, 12th October, by racing to a pair of truly outstanding top four finishes.Proving beyond any shadow of a doubt his status as a potential championship challenger if he manages to secure the required funds to contest a full season of Formula 3 racing in 2009, the Wolverhampton driver produced scintillating pace throughout the event.“It’s been an incredible weekend”, said a delighted Dean, “I’ve really enjoyed the racing and hopefully now people will be able to see what I can do at this level and we’ll be able to secure some more sponsorship to help fund a full season in Formula 3 next year.”Expecting to line up fourth on the grid for the first race, Dean instead found himself in fifth position after Nick Tandy had one of his disallowed laps from Saturday’s qualifying session re-instated. The Fortec Motorsport racer wasted no time in moving into the top four though at the start, a superb getaway allowing him to pass Tandy on the exit of Redgate Corner.Pressurising championship contender Oliver Turvey during the early stages for third place, Dean lapped with pace comparable to the trio of cars ahead – incidentally, the top three in the driver standings. He eventually concluded his first ever Formula 3 race in fourth place, just 1.8 seconds shy of the podium on his maiden outing in the car.Better was to follow during the final round of the 2008 campaign this afternoon though when the 20-year-old climbed from 10th on the grid to seal another top four result. Lapping even more impressively than he had in the day’s first encounter, the West Midlands ace posted the second fastest time of all with a lap of 1m 01.927 seconds.One of just four drivers to lap under the 1m 02 second barrier, Dean held the fastest time between laps eight and 18. Brendon Hartley, who had earlier pitted and rejoined on a clear track someway down on the leaders, managed to lap a couple of 10ths of a second faster in the end. Nonetheless, Dean’s pace was outstanding.Making a lightning start from row five, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star took ninth position through Redgate on lap one and then set about catching eighth placed Jay Bridger while also pulling away from Steven Guerrero in 10th position.On the sixth tour, Dean produced another exemplary move at Redgate to grab eighth place from Bridger and after reeling off a series of fantastically quick laps he latched onto the tail of Fortec team-mate Marcus Ericsson.Moving into seventh on lap 13 after Hartley pitted from fourth position, Dean then mounted a couple of challenges on Ericsson over the next few laps but to no avail. Determined to get ahead, he produced the move of the race on lap 20 by passing both Ericsson and fifth placed Oliver Oakes around the outside at Goddards Chicane.Quickly gaining on Sam Abay in fourth place, Dean made his sixth pass of the race on lap 27 at Redgate after the former made a mistake when under pressure and ran wide. With just two more laps remaining, there wasn’t time for the series rookie to grab a podium place but he was still less than a second shy of the rostrum at the chequer on lap 29.
“It’s so hard to overtake in F3 cars at Donington so I thought I’d chance it a bit in the second race and everything paid off”, said Dean, “(Marcus) Ericsson was holding me off well, he did a really good job of defending, but when he was held up himself I took advantage of it. “Fourth in the first race was fantastic, but to finish fourth from 10th on the grid in the second one was the real highlight. It was important for me to be the top Fortec driver this weekend so I’m absolutely delighted. The car was good and I think we’ve shown exactly what we can do in Formula 3.”Smith to contest Eurocup FR and WEC events next weekendHaving enjoyed a remarkable debut in the British Formula 3 International Series over the weekend, Dean quickly returns to competitive action just a few days from now when he travels to Barcelona in Spain for the finale of the 2008 Eurocup Formula Renault season.Taking place on Saturday, 18th October, and Sunday, 19th October, Dean will not only take part in the last two rounds of the Eurocup season, he will also contest the final Formula Renault West European Cup (WEC) encounters of 2008, also to be held in Barcelona.Although having had a luckless year in Eurocup Formula Renault, the Wolverhampton ace takes a lot of confidence with him into next weekend’s races – especially as the Circuit de Catalunya is one he very much likes.He said: “Although we haven’t had the results we’d hoped for this year in Eurocup, the last few races have gone better and we’ve had some improved luck. It’d be great to end the season with a podium but we’re also hoping to be strong in the two WEC races as well. It’ll be a busy weekend I’m looking forward to it.”