BARCELONA Dean Smith concluded his maiden season of international car racing with his busiest outing of the year at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona over the weekend, 18th/19th October - taking part in a total of four races at the wheel of his Fortec Motorsport entered Formula Renault.Returning to the car having made a highly successful Formula 3 debut with Fortec in the final two rounds of the British Formula 3 International Series at Donington Park just seven days ago, the Wolverhampton racer contested both Eurocup Formula Renault races and also the accompanying West European Cup encounters in Spain this weekend.Very much a mixed outing for Dean, the 20-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star enjoyed good runs in the WEC races – taking a top six finish during the first outing and backing the result up with eighth position in race two – but the Eurocup action was blighted by yet more bad luck, as has unfortunately been the way all season.Dean’s misfortune first reared its head during Saturday’s Superpole session when grip problems resulted in a total lack of pace and he concluded the run at the tail of the order in 24th position.Highly frustrating for the West Midlands racer, especially as he had progressed through to Superpole with the sixth fastest time in his qualifying group, it also emerged in the first of the weekend’s Eurocup races there was a damper issue which compounded his troubles. Although making a terrific start to Saturday afternoon’s race, incredibly climbing from 24th place to 13th position by the time he exited the first corner, Dean slipped back to 18th position before the finish as his car began to lose between two and three seconds a lap. After the race he was promoted to 17th following a penalty for Czech driver Adam Kout.For Sunday’s Eurocup race, Dean started 24th on the grid again and made stunning progress towards the top 15 early on. On about lap five though, his car started going slower and slower until his gearbox failed leading to a retirement on lap 13. He ends the 2008 Eurocup Formula Renault season 17th in the driver standings from over 40 drivers.“We thought the problem with the car after Superpole was the dampers and when we did change them the car felt much better”, explained Dean, “After the second Eurocup race it was obviously clear we had gearbox problems too, it’s been such a disappointing year in Eurocup as we’ve had nothing but bad luck. At least the two WEC races went well for us.”Smith shines in West European Cup In qualifying for the weekend’s two Formula Renault West European Cup encounters, Dean posted the 10th fastest time of 1m 46.492 seconds for race one while an almost identical second best lap of 1m 46.498 seconds placed him ninth on the grid for race two. The first WEC race, Sunday morning’s opening track action, saw Dean finish in sixth place after a very strong run in the wet. Up to ninth on lap one, he gained another position on the third tour before leaping two further spots up the order on lap four where he remained to the chequered flag.
Race two saw Dean produce another highly competitive run to conclude the weekend on a relative high with eighth position from ninth on the grid. Remaining in his starting place on lap one, the Fortec racer passed Anton Nebilitsky on lap two for eighth and went on to take his fourth top 10 finish in as many WEC outings.“Although the Eurocup races were luckless, things were a lot stronger for us in WEC”, said Dean, “Changing the gearbox after the second Eurocup race helped massively and the car was much faster. I did have some understeer but other than that, it was much better.“It’s not been the season we wanted but we’re looking ahead to next year now. Hopefully we’ll be able to secure the budget to race in Formula 3, that’s my aim and I hope to be back out in an F3 car as soon as I can for some testing. I showed last weekend what I’m capable of by finishing fourth on my debut, I’m focused on racing in F3 in 2009 now.”