DEAN Stoneman is hoping to dedicate another GP3 victory to the late Dean Paling – by winning at Silverstone on British Grand Prix weekend.
The 23-year-old from Bishop’s Waltham had only just completed his first season back in motor racing after overcoming cancer when he lost his best pal, with whom he won the 2012 P1 Superstock UK Powerboating Championship, in a car crash seven months ago.
Stoneman’s GP3 helmet is a tribute to the friend he knew as ‘Racing Snake’ and he dedicated his first win in Barcelona to Paling.
Winning at Silverstone is his next goal.
“Dean’s death was another reminder to enjoy every day because things can turn so quickly,” he said.
So too was Stoneman’s battle with a rare and particularly serious form of testicular cancer, the after-effects of which he may never recover from.
Three years on from his last chemotherapy session, he still suffers from nerve damage to his feet.
“It affects my performance because I have issues with braking,” explains Stoneman, who is suing his former doctor for failing to spot the signs.
“I don’t have the sensitivity in my feet to make braking easy, I go by the sensation in my legs rather than the sole of my foot because I can’t regulate the pressure I put on the pedal.
“I’ve had to adapt and learn to deal with it, but I’ve improved a lot since Barcelona.”
Stoneman, who is racing for Marussia Manor, won the second round in Catalunya on the opening weekend of GP3.
“It’s not that long ago I was told I’d never race again so that’s one of the best races of my career,” said Stoneman.
He was not as successful in rounds three and four in Spielberg, Austria a fortnight ago. Penalised for coming off the circuit at a corner, he suffered a collision before doing well to finish tenth, from a starting position of 23rd, in front of a crowd of 150,000.
Now he is preparing to show his countrymen what he can do.
“There’s no issue with speed, I showed that in Barcelona and there’s a long way to go,” said Stoneman, who is currently seventh in the GP3 Championship with 14 of the 18 races to go.
“Things can turn around so quickly, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Stoneman, who realised he was ready for a return to single-seater racing after taking part in last year’s GP3 finale in Abu Dhabi, following a season in the Porsche Carrera Cup. Most GP3 drivers aspire to compete in GP2 and ultimately Formula One. Current graduates from GP3 to the motor-racing elite include Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber), Valtterri Bottas (Williams) and Daniil Kvyat (Scuderia Toro Rosso).
But Stoneman, a speed-lover with a 48ft powerboat and a helicopter pilot’s licence, is more likely to be endurance racing in the 24-hour classic at Le Mans next year.
“My dad’s got great belief in me and has funded my racing till now, but I need a sponsor behind me if I’m to go any further than GP3,” he said.
“At some point I have to say no – and GP2 costs £1.3m a year. So if I don’t get taken on by anyone by the end of the season I’ll probably side step to 24-hour endurance racing at Le Mans.”