Dean Smith, reigning Formula Renault UK champion and winner of the award for last year’s top young British driver, has been saved from a possible season on the sidelines after the Racing Steps Foundation teamed up with Carlin to secure him a seat in GP3.
Smith, the current holder of the McLaren Autosport BRDC young driver award, had been hoping to secure a Formula Two seat, but struggled to find the quarter of a million pounds necessary to take part.
Instead, the Racing Steps Foundation (RSF) has added him to the list of talented but financially-challenged drivers on its books, which is currently headed by GP2 driver Oliver Turvey and British F3 rookie James Calado.
With the support of management company Tomax – which works with Tom and Max Chilton – RSF was able to place him with Carlin, the team that fields Calado. Last winter Capsicum Motorsport, the company established by the Chiltons’ father Grahame, became a major investor in Carlin.
RSF ambassador and ex-F1 champions John Surtees, who worked behind the scenes to help secure the deal, said: “It would have been a travesty if a driver with Dean’s talent had been without a drive this season, so it goes without saying that I’m delighted the Racing Steps Foundation and Tomax have been able to come together to make this possible.
“Dean’s situation as a talented but under-funded driver is precisely the sort of issue that the Foundation was set up to resolve, so it’s good to see the deal come together. With Carlin he has a team with which he can win which is good for Dean and good for British motorsport.”
GP3 is a new support series that will run alongside GP2 at the European F1 dates this season and, despite only being launched this year, is threatening to displace Formula Three Euro Series as one of the main routes to the top.
Carlin, a major player in British F3 with six cars this year, pulled out of the Euro Series to concentrate on its GP3 challenge. Until this announcement it had no officially-confirmed drivers for the season, but took part in recent testing with Smith behind the wheel of one of its cars.
Race director Trevor Carlin said: “We’ve been watching Dean’s progress for some time and have been in touch with him since the end of the 2009 season. Dean confirmed our belief in him with a very strong test at Paul Ricard last week, despite it being his first experience of the GP3 car.
“I’ve no doubt that we have a race-winner within the team now, and I’m very excited about Dean’s potential for the season ahead.”
Smith said: “I’m so excited about GP3 and very thankful to the RSF, Tomax and Carlin for making this opportunity possible for me. To be involved in a new championship such as GP3 is extremely exciting and I’m sure with Carlin I will have the package to enable me to challenge the front runners.
“My test at Paul Ricard last week went very well and I’m confident that this is the right place to be at this point in my career. I’ll be working hard to repay the faith that everyone has shown in me this season.”