Dean Smith, the reigning Formula Renault UK Champion has signed a deal which will see him graduate into the brand new for 2010 GP3 Series with leading British outfit Carlin.

The Twenty-two year old  from Wolverhampton is the first confirmed signing for the team ahead of the inaugural GP3 Series season. The GP3 Series is the direct feeder series for established series GP2. Both the GP2 and GP3 Series will support the FIA Formula One World Championship at the European race weekends.

The deal which has secured Smith a drive in GP3 only started to come about a couple of weeks ago, and has come as a complete surprise to the racer himself.

The McLaren Autosport BRDC Winner has recieved funding from the Racing Steps Foundation organisation and driver management company Tomax.

Smith is one of just seven car and bike competitors to have recieved financial assistance for the 2010 season. The company is a not-for-profit organisation, who looks to fund drivers who otherwise wouldn't be able to progress up the racing career ladder. It was set up in 2008 by businessman Graham Sharp.

Apart from helping Smith reach GP3 this year, Tomax also deal with current GP2 racer Max Chilton and his brother Tom, who races a LPG Powered Ford Focus ST for Team AON in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.

Speaking about the graduation into GP3, and the support he has recieved from RSF and Tomax, Smith said: “This deal is an absolute dream come true for me, Even though I won Formula Renault UK last year, and then the McLaren Award, we were struggling to put together a race deal for this season. Then we got the call from Carlin a couple of weeks ago and everything has now fallen into place which is incredible.

“None of this would have been possible at all without the Racing Steps Foundation, Tomax, Carlin and the support of RSF ambassador John Surtees so I am hugely grateful to all of them for giving me such an amazing, potentially career-changing opportunity.

“It's going to be a very tough season as there are some extremely talented teams and drivers on the grid for the first season of GP3 but I know Carlin will give me a very competitive package and I'm looking forward to working with the team this year. It's an exciting prospect to be involved in a brand new championship, especially on the F1 support package, so I intend to make the most of it.”

Smith has already tasted a GP3 car, having tested for Carlin in the recent test at Paul Ricard in France. His debut in the Renault powered open wheeler was a positive one, as he set the eleventh fastest time in his first session in the car before an improvement left him eighth in the afternoon.

In joining Carlin, the current McLaren Autosport BRDC  award winner has joined one of the most successful teams in recent history, and under the guidance of Trevor Carlin, the team has had considerable success in Formula BMW, Formula Three and World Series by Renault. Since they were formed in the late 1990's, the team have recorded one hundred and sixty-six race wins.

The Wolverhampton based racer will next get to try out his new piece of kit when the GP3 teams next test together, at Barcelona on the 13/14 April, ahead of the first ever races for the series on the 8/9 May, alongside the GP2 and Formula One at Barcelona, the opening leg of the Formula One European Tour.

Photo credit: Drew Gibson/GP3 Media Servicee