HE’S been through hell but last night Hampshire racing driver Dean Stoneman was back on a high with a winning hat trick.

For after a year fighting for life and overcoming testicular cancer, the former Formula 2 Champion has tasted champagne after not just one but three victories in his racing return – this time on water.

The 21-year-old sportsman from Bishop’s Waltham, an ambassador for Wessex Cancer Trust, was making his debut with co-driver Dean Paling in the ultra competitive P1 Superstox powerboat series in Plymouth Sound.

It is a championship where the driver’s skill is everything, in which every boat and every engine are identical, all modifications outlawed.

And he revealed they had an extra hurdle: “I only got to drive my boat Friday evening – some of the others hadn’t had theirs long either but some were racing all last year.

“But there is only one way to go and that is flat out and hold on to win.

“Second is first loser!”

The pair won the first race by 21 seconds, the next by ten seconds, and the same margin in the third, to be first overall in the Plymouth Cup series – second were Southampton duo Mike Lovell and Luke Elgin.

Dean, whose dad Colin was World Powerboat Champion in 1995, said: “It’s a great feeling to be back racing and I’m delighted we won as I really didn’t know what to expect coming into the race weekend as both Dean (Paling) and I are making our powerboat racing debuts.”

He added: “I am sure now that it was the right move to race powerboats this year to help build my fitness again as I still have unfinished business in car racing.”

Less than 18 months ago he had put in an impressive test with the Williams Grand Prix Formula One team, faster than the two regular drivers in the team whose Pastor Maldonado won in Spain in the latest round this season.

But then, with a season in the 3.5-litre World Series by Renault championship ahead before the hoped-for graduation to F1, his world fell apart with the cancer diagnosis.

He said: “I got sick and that was it.

“I have been to hell and back, with 70 nights in hospital last year, four operations, 18 hours a day chemotherapy and nerve damage.

“I have got no feeling in my feet from the nerve damage. That might take three or four years to come back but you have to get on with it. My motto is never give up!”

There are four rounds in the P1 series ahead, at Hull (June 16-17), Eastbourne (July 14-15), and then two in the Solent with Cowes (August 25-26) followed by the grand finale at Southampton Boat Show on September 15-16.

Dean is looking ahead to racing in local waters. “I’ve got my own 26ft diesel powerboat but that’s just for fun – this is real racing.”

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