Meet the Contenders: Dean Stoneman
 August 30, 2016| 
  • Series News
Dean Stoneman is one of six drivers in contention for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship crown in a hotly contested season with only two events remaining. 

PALMETTO, Fla. – Dean Stoneman was on a Formula One trajectory coming off a decisive 2010 FIA Formula 2 Championship victory that had earned him a test with Williams F1. But a diagnosis of advanced choriocarcinoma (a rare type of testicular cancer) and the ensuing aggressive treatment derailed the young Brit’s plans and eventually sent him on a different course – one that eventually brought him to the United States, Andretti Autosport and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Refusing to let his diagnosis define him, Stoneman earned a power boat title, sports car victories and a second-place finish in the FIA GP3 Series in the years after his recovery. The 26-year-old now lies third in the Indy Lights championship with sights set on his goal - the Verizon IndyCar Series.

In typical matter-of-fact style, Stoneman lists the life-changing diagnosis as one more detail in his life alongside numerous racing accomplishments. 

“I went through the karting ranks and then moved to cars,” said Stoneman. “I won the British Championship in 2006, and then did three years in Formula Renault. I won the Formula 2 Championship in 2010 and tested for Williams F1 in Abu Dhabi. But in 2011, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, so I took out a whole season for chemotherapy and operations. In 2012, I tested an Indy Lights car with Andretti Autosport but I wasn’t yet fit enough so I entered the P1 Powerboat championship to help me with my competitive edge. 

“I competed with my late friend Dean Paling as my navigator and we took the title, winning all but one race and coming second in the other. We were dominant; it was great fun and really helped me return to racing cars – and I can say that I’ve won championships on land and sea.”

Stoneman kept his eye on America throughout his days in Europe, with the Mazda Road to Indy, the Mazda scholarship and the chance to graduate to the Verizon IndyCar Series becoming an increasingly attractive proposition. 

“We’d had a good test with Andretti in 2012, but so soon after my illness I wasn’t ready to get back into the car at such high speeds. We were quick but it wasn’t the right moment. Now is a different story. This is the route I’ve been looking down for the past year or so and I decided that the time was now to move across to America and the Mazda Road to Indy. This is my career path now and I think I have a great future. The scholarship gives you an incentive to get to the next level, and being with a team like Andretti, with their racing pedigree and amazing background in every series they’ve done, adds to that.”

Joining teammates Shelby Blackstock and Dalton Kellett in time for the series’ test in February at Phoenix International Raceway, Stoneman finished fourth in two full-field sessions in his first oval experience. He earned his first podium finish on the road course at Barber Motorsports Park and his first victory at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. But his season highlight was yet to come: in the closest finish in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Stoneman took the Freedom 100 victory over Carlin’s Ed Jones by an astonishing 0.0024 seconds which vaulted him to second place in the season standings. With podium finishes in seven races, including two victories, Stoneman goes into the final three races in third position in the standings behind Jones and leader Santi Urrutia – and ruing the mechanical issues that placed him last in two races.  

“It’s been a good season but it’s been challenging as well with some bad luck along the way. If I’d finished those three races, we’d be leading the championship – but it doesn’t go that way. The championship always comes down to the last two races of the year and it will again this year. It would mean a lot to win the title. After beating cancer, coming back to finish second in GP3 and the World Series with Red Bull last year, to come to America and get the Indy Lights title in my first year would be a great achievement. I was in a hospital bed five years ago, fighting for my life, and now I’m here, winning races.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series is the goal of every driver on the Mazda Road to Indy, and Stoneman is no exception.  He has learned a great deal about racing in America and hopes to continue his success with Andretti Autosport.

“I came in this season with no testing before the season started so it was a learning curve for me and for the team. We’ve figured out where the car needs to be so I’m confident going into the last three races of the year. If you win races in Indy Lights, I believe you’re good enough for IndyCar and I’d like to move forward with Andretti Autosport next year. I’d like to be loyal to them, since they’ve been very good to me. The championship is a big factor in what happens next year. It would be great to have the Mazda scholarship to get into the Verizon IndyCar Series. It’s a huge factor.”

Since Mid-Ohio, Stoneman has been busy testing a variety of cars, from a morning behind the wheel of Andretti teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Indy car at Watkins Glen International to a day at Donington Park in a Formula E car. “Busy” is a theme for Stoneman, who hopes to start working on an airplane flight certification to go with his helicopter license while he spends his time in England designing and working on boats near his home in the sailing hub of Southampton.

“I’m the sort of person who always has to be doing something; I can’t sit down for an hour. Boats have been in the family for as long as I can remember. I design them and build them. It’s very satisfying to see the end result, to see the whole stage beginning to end. I built my first boat - an XS MG - in 2012. I had the basic shell but did the rest, sourcing the FPT engines, designing the interior from scratch and the overall look and performance of it. It's really rewarding. I’m currently building a similar craft but we are doing a new exciting design for this one. It’s on hold now though whilst I concentrate on my Indy Lights campaign.”
 
Stoneman remains grateful for the opportunities he’s been presented with since that fateful day in 2011. What could have defeated him instead made him stronger and even more determined. The direction of his career obviously changed, but did the cancer and recovery alter his view of the world?

“It changed me a huge amount, in lots of ways. It’s hard to explain but, as a whole person, how you look at things is completely different. Because of what I went through, I live every day as my last because you never know what’s going to happen. I enjoy myself day by day and take things as they come. I value life much more than I did before."
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