Alex MacDowall racked-up his seventh Yokohama Independents Trophy podium finish of the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship season at the Salzburgring in Austria on Sunday, 19th May, on one of the most controversial weekends in the history of the category.
Finishing third in the Independents Trophy and sixth overall in round 10, having earlier scythed his way through the order from 12th on the grid into fifth in class and fourth overall in round nine, the Carlisle driver ended the event third in the Independents standings and seventh in the main WTCC title battle.
Rapid from the off in practice on Saturday, 18th May, leading the way in the Independents during the first session and posting the third quickest time of all, Alex carried his form into qualifying where he grabbed the class pole position for round 10 with a place on the second row of the overall grid.
However, 14 drivers – including the 22-year-old Cumbrian – were placed under investigation by the stewards following a bizarre second period of qualifying in which Tom Chilton backed up the rest of the runners as the clock ticked down in order to prevent anyone gaining an all-important slipstream.
Championship officials took a dim view on proceedings, which they claimed to be “unsporting”, and although Alex was stuck in the lead train of cars he was still served with a substantial eight place grid penalty and a hefty 3,000 Euro fine.
“Everyone needed a tow but [Tom] Chilton held everyone up, I tagged onto the train hoping I’d get a tow but everyone got backed up and before we got round to start another lap the chequered flag had come out”, explained Alex, “I think the penalty I got was a bit harsh, there were a high number of penalties over the weekend though.”
Despite the loss of grid places, which almost certainly cost the Chevrolet Cruze driver a chance at an outright podium and class victory, Alex made outstanding progress in Sunday’s first race with one of the best drives of his touring car career.
Instantly moving into the top 10, the Bamboo Engineering racer quickly moved up into eighth overall and sixth in class and on lap three he was into fifth – both overall and in the Independents – after passing fellow Brit James Thompson.
Reeling in the BMW of Fredy Barth, Alex challenged for fourth but after running slightly wide at the second corner on lap six both were passed by Yvan Muller. Taking fifth from Barth a lap later, fourth in class, he remained there to the chequered flag. Confirming his race winning potential, Alex posted the fastest lap of all with a time of 1m26.925 seconds (109.13mph).
Starting round 10 from seventh place overall, Alex was shuffled back to 10th but maintained third in the Independents Trophy. Into ninth after a couple of laps, still third in class, he rocketed past 2012 WTCC Champion Rob Huff on lap four for eighth overall and then passed Gabriele Tarquini and Pepe Oriola in quick succession to move into the top six where he stayed to the finish.
“I think we could have had a podium in race one without the penalty”, said Alex, “It’s one of the best races I’ve driven and I was pleased with the result, from 12th to fifth overall isn’t bad at all. Taking a class podium in race two was good, all the way through the weekend the car was working well and we showed we had the pace. We turned what was a bad weekend after qualifying into a good one.”
Rounds 11 and 12 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship will take place three weeks from now on 8th/9th June at Moscow Raceway – the category’s first ever visit to Russia.
2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd10):
7th Alex MacDowall, 73pts
2013 FIA WTCC Yokohama Independents Trophy Driver Standings (after Rd10):
3rd Alex MacDowall, 66pts
Photo by Romano Poli/www.photo-4.com.