It’s an odd thing to say about a race car driver, but the second most impressive attribute about Dean Stoneman might be his talent.
The 24-year-old Englishman won five GP3 races this year on his way to second in the standings, won the 2010 FIA Formula 2 championship (beating 2014 GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer) and showed promise when he tested for Williams F1 in 2010.
Faced with graduating to GP2 and joining the line of drivers with almost no chance of reaching Formula 1, Stoneman has made the bold decision to jump from Europe and seek a drive in the Verizon IndyCar Series or Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.
“Young drivers in Europe aspire to reach Formula 1. I’m the same, but even the guys who are champions in the junior categories are forced to bring massive budgets to get there, and that’s changed the way a lot of people are thinking right now,” he said. “I love the atmosphere in IndyCar and the Indy Lights championships, and looking at my future we’ve decided America is the best place for me.”
Stoneman is hailed as one of Europe’s most promising young drivers, and has clearly earned the respect of NBCSN F1 pit reporter Will Buxton.
“Dean’s incredible,” he said. “He has the talent to really make a big impact in America, and he reminds me a lot of two particular British world champions. I won’t say their names because I don’t want to blow up his head, but I’d expect Dean to win straight away. His life so far has been like a Hollywood movie script; it’s almost hard to believe what he’s been through to get to where he is today. Everyone loves the fightback story, and that's Dean.”
Buxton is referring to Stoneman’s fighting spirit, which easily is his most impressive character trait. With the 2010 F2 championship in hand and plans to move up to World Series by Renault 3.5 in 2011, Stoneman noticed something wasn’t quite right physically and visited his doctor.
A battery of tests revealed cancer. At 20 years old, dreams of reaching F1 became an afterthought.
“It was Stage 4 plus plus plus,” he explained. “When I made it to the doctor, they said I was two hours away from losing both my legs if I didn’t have immediate surgery. The main tumor was wrapped around the aorta feeding blood to my legs. From there, they said I had 14 days to live without treatment, and that started six months of aggressive chemotherapies.”
Heading into surgery, Stoneman was told he’d have to abandon his career as a race car driver, and he used that proclamation as a source of inspiration. Two months after being pronounced cancer-free, he was testing a Formula Renault 3.5 car at the Aragon circuit in Spain.
“I was keen to get back in the car to see if I still had the pace, which I did, but I realized I was pushing too hard, too soon, so I decided to try something different while I was recovering and went powerboat racing,” he said. “We won the UK Powerboat championship there in my debut season. That was 2012, and then I began working my way back to racing cars.
“To come out the other side of a battle with testicular cancer was a big achievement, but moving on with my life and going back to motor racing, showing I was faster than ever and going for the wins in GP3 … that was really special for me. And now I’m prepared to take the next step in America.
“I know I have the talent to race an Indy car straight away. That would be my dream. If it ends up being Indy Lights, that would also be good. I just need to start making connections with team owners to see what we can do together.”