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Alex MacDowallAlex 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.

Alex MacDowall - Slovakia RingAlex MacDowall closed to within just nine points of the Yokohama Independents Trophy lead during the third event of the FIA World Touring Car Championship season in Slovakia on Sunday, 28th April, by racing to his second class victory of the 2013 season.

Completely erasing memories of a somewhat trying visit to the Slovakia Ring 12 months ago during his maiden season in the WTCC, the Carlisle driver produced two excellent race performances this weekend at the Bratislava track to consolidate third place in the Independents Trophy standings.

Race two, round six, was the pick of the action for the 22-year-old and despite a troublesome start, which dropped him from fifth overall on the grid to 11th place, Alex remained calm and composed and began to move back through the order – taking 10th on lap four.

Into ninth on lap five, the Chevrolet Cruze driver ran in the thick of a very closely contested pack of seven cars where the slightest of errors would prove costly. Holding the Independents lead, Alex swarmed all over the back of the RML-run Chevrolet of Tom Chilton while having to keep one eye on his mirrors at all times with Mehdi Bennani’s BMW right behind.

Taking eighth overall on lap nine at the expense of the Honda of Norbert Michelisz, Alex continued to pressurise Chilton and at the chequered flag on lap 10 only 0.2 seconds separated them with only 0.5 seconds the difference to sixth placed Pepe Oriola.

“It was all action-packed at the start”, said the Cumbrian, “We didn’t make a particularly good start which put us out on the outfield into turn one – that wasn’t great. From then on, everyone was struggling with cold tyres and we picked a few off on that lap. Then it was quite a dog fight to the end but I caught the leaders quite quickly. It’s great to win again, just what we needed.”

In round five, Alex lined-up sixth overall on the grid and with the Independents Trophy pole position thanks to a best lap of 2m11.422 seconds (162.21 km/h) in qualifying – a marked improvement on 2012 underlining the progress made by driver and team.

Unfortunately pushed back to ninth at the start, that made all the difference between a potential class victory and a third place Independents finish. With the racing unbelievably close, hardly any places were changed among the front-runners and after recovering into eighth overall, third in class, Alex wasn’t able to make any further inroads.

Able to pull clear of the pack behind, he pressured the Chevrolet of Michel Nykjaer and at the flag on lap 10 just 0.3 seconds separated the duo. Confirming his pace, Alex’s best lap of 2m13.845 seconds was little more than 0.1 seconds shy of the Independents Trophy fastest from Danish driver Nykjaer.

Rounds seven and eight of the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship will take place just a week from now, on 4th/5th May, at the Hungaroring in Hungary.

2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd6):
9th Alex MacDowall, 34pts

2013 FIA WTCC Yokohama Independents Trophy Driver Standings (after Rd6):
3rd Alex MacDowall, 37pts

Photo by Romano Poli/www.photo-4.com.

Alex MacDowallHot on the heels of an outstanding start to the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship at Monza just over a week ago, Britain’s Alex MacDowall is confident of continuing his superb early season form when the series makes its annual visit to Morocco this coming weekend, 6th/7th April.

Heading to the Circuit Moulay El Hassan street track in Marrakech holding second position in the Yokohama Independents Trophy, and equal fourth in the main WTCC title race, the Carlisle ace made his intentions clear during the season opener with class victory and his first outright WTCC podium.

After such an impressive start to his second season in the world championship, 22-year-old Alex is aiming to keep the momentum going when he arrives in North Africa – especially as he was very competitive in his Chevrolet at the 4.5-kilometre Moroccan circuit on his first visit there in 2012.

“Monza was a good start to the season for us and I want to continue that in Marrakech, I’ll be aiming for the front row in qualifying”, commented Alex, “I think it should play well for us, the track should suit us as the Chevys were strong there last year. We didn’t do too badly last season, we had some bad luck in the end but we qualified strongly and that’s what we need to do again.”

During the corresponding Moroccan event in 2012, Alex was all set for two Yokohama Independents Trophy podiums at least and his pace certainly merited such results. In the opening encounter, he was in the overall top six on the first lap when unfortunate contact dropped him to the back of the field. He mounted a terrific recovery though, climbing back into the top 12 and sixth in class.

Beginning race two on the Independents pole position, hopes of a potential class win – which would have been his first – went awry almost immediately when a broken driveshaft led to retirement. This year, Alex is determined to put the record straight with more overall podiums and a bid for a couple of class victories.

He added: “We need to be aiming to qualify right up near the front again next weekend. If the weather is warm it will help the BMWs but the kerbs in Marrakech are hard on the cars and the Chevy copes with them really well. Our car is good on the kerbs and there are long straights which suit the strengths of the Cruze – we should be aiming to come away with two really strong results.”

Following a brief half-hour test session in Marrakech on Friday, 5th April, two additional 30-minute practice sessions will take place on Saturday, 6th April, ahead of qualifying at 14.30 (local time). Both races will be held on Sunday, 7th April, with round three scheduled to start at 15.20 and round four set to commence at 16.20 – all of the action will be screened live on the British Eurosport network.

2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings:
=4th Alex MacDowall, 18pts

2013 FIA WTCC Yokohama Independents Trophy Driver Standings:
2nd Alex MacDowall, 12pts

Photo by Romano Poli/www.photo-4.com

Alex MacDowall - leading in MacauAlex MacDowall was incredibly lucky to emerge unscathed from a horrifying, high-speed impact with the barriers at Circuito da Guia in Macau on Sunday, 18th November, after contact from outgoing FIA World Touring Car Champion Yvan Muller during the final round of the 2012 season.

Bringing a bitter conclusion to an otherwise highly promising Macau debut for Carlisle 21-year-old Alex, the heavy collision at Mandarin Bend – the fastest corner on the 3.8-mile street circuit – also resulted in him missing out on a top three finish in the Yokohama Independents Trophy title race.

“Everything was going really well in race two, we definitely had the chance of an overall podium as well as an Independents one”, explained Alex, “[Yvan] Muller just completely misjudged it, I had to be careful not to hit Pepe [Oriola] in front of me as he defended but Muller just carried on flat-out behind, closed-in too quickly and just turned me round – it was definitely his fault.

“I was feeling pretty hot-headed afterwards but OK thankfully, it was a big hit with the barrier. It’s really disappointing, I’d had the lead just before and we were still on for a podium. It’s the hardest street circuit in the world and the kind of place where knowledge is everything, so to go there for the first time and be so fast was great. I definitely exceeded my expectations despite the collision.”

Alex had begun round 24 on the outright ‘reverse grid’ pole position, as well as the Independents Trophy pole, and although losing out to the expectedly fast-starting rear-wheel drive BMW of class points leader Norbert Michelisz off the line, the Briton hit back on lap two with a fantastic pass along the pit-straight to regain the lead.

Driving sensationally, the Macau rookie held an advantage of 0.9 seconds going into lap three, now over the works Chevrolet of Alain Menu, but the slightest brush of the barriers at the previous corner cost him significant momentum up the straight – enabling the Swiss driver to slingshot past into San Francisco.

The delay ended up costing the Bamboo Engineering driver another couple of positions as well, so dropped him to fourth overall and third in the Independents Trophy, but he quickly re-challenged third placed Pepe Oriola ahead.

On the run through the 235km/h Mandarin Bend though on lap four, as Alex was sensibly careful not to make contact with the defensive Oriola as the train of cars ran nose-to-tail, the pursuing works Chevrolet of Muller carried full speed through the turn and tagged the right-rear of Alex’s car which dramatically speared his Cruze head-on into the unforgiving barriers on the inside.

Sending his car into a series of worrying spins, with the front-end of the Chevrolet destroyed, the WTCC rookie was thankfully avoided by the oncoming train of cars streaming through the turn and he was eventually able to extricate himself safely.

“After I got the lead I was pulling away comfortably, as soon as I saw [Alain] Menu in my mirrors though I knew I needed to push harder”, said Alex, “Unfortunately, I just caught the barrier at the last corner after checking the mirrors again and that cost me momentum all the way up the straight. When Menu went by, I lost momentum again and that’s how the others got past.”

During the earlier 23rd round, Alex finished fourth in the Independents Trophy and ninth overall in a race which was compromised for all bar the top six due to a first lap tangle at Lisboa which led to the track being blocked.

As cars dueling for seventh collided, Alex was in the pursuing group and was badly delayed. When the track was cleared and the queue of stationary cars was released, the Briton posted consistently strong lap times and managed to climb into ninth and fourth in class – having started 10th overall.

After the final weekend of the season, Alex retains 11th position in the main WTCC driver standings, an impressive result in his maiden season in the World Championship, tied on points with 10th placed Mehdi Bennani. In the Yokohama Independents Trophy he rounded-out the year fifth in the table, just 17 points shy of the top three, during a season in which he claimed two wins and eight podiums.

Final 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings:
CHAMPION: Robert Huff, 413pts; 11th Alex MacDowall, 68pts

Final 2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings:
CHAMPION: Norbert Michelisz, 139pts; 5th Alex MacDowall, 105pts

Photo by Romano Poli/www.photo-4.com.

Alex MacDowall - WTCC Chevrolet CruzeChevrolet Cruze driver Alex MacDowall aims to break into the coveted top three in the Yokohama Independents Trophy points standings this coming weekend, 20th/21st October, when the FIA World Touring Car Championship arrives in Japan for rounds 19 and 20 of the season.

Marking the Carlisle WTCC rookie’s first ever visit to the Far East, and therefore maiden experience of the 2.2-kilometre Suzuka East Circuit, the 10th race meeting of the season will be yet another fresh challenge for Alex – and one he is seriously looking forward to.

Arriving in Japan fourth in the Independents driver standings, a mere six points shy of third place, the Bamboo Engineering racer is brimming with confidence at the moment off the back of two highly successful race meetings in Brazil and America.

With a best result of second in class, sixth overall, during the first of two races at Curitiba, followed up by a double Independents Trophy podium at Sonoma in California, the 21-year-old has now taken a total of seven class podiums during the course of the year – including, of course, one victory from the sixth event of the season at Salzburgring in Austria.

“I think Suzuka will be a good track for us again”, said Alex, “The Cruze was strong around there last year with full success ballast and it often rains in Japan. Racing in the wet is one of my strong points so that could work well for us if the weather is like that, whenever it has rained in the past I’ve always qualified on pole so I’m hoping it will be wet next weekend.

“I’ve been working really hard with my engineer Nick [Clipson] and we’re happy we’ve got a good set-up now which we really like. The last two rounds, in Brazil and America, have been our strongest which shows the work we’ve been doing is correct and making a positive difference.”

With six races remaining in the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship, including a double-points awarding finale at Macau, Alex can still mathematically win the Yokohama Independents Trophy but his focus is realistically on battling for the Vice-Champion’s position and best of the rookies.

“My aim is get into the top three in the Independents championship by the end of the weekend, and close the gap to second which is my goal for the end of the season”, he added, “I’m really hoping for another strong run at the weekend and with the long straight at Suzuka, which should play into the Chevy’s hands, we’ve got a good chance for some more great results.”

Following a single half-hour test session at Suzuka on Friday, 19th October, two free practice sessions will take place on Saturday, 20th October, ahead of qualifying at 15.30 local time (06.30 UK time). On Sunday, 21st October, round 19 will get underway at 14.35 (05.35 UK time) with round 20 scheduled to start at 15.50 (06.50 UK time).

Qualifying and both races will be screened live on the Eurosport network , across digital satellite and cable platforms, and the action will also be available online through the Eurosport Player service. Visit www.eurosportplayer.co.uk for details.

2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd18):
1st Norbert Michelisz, 134pts; 4th Alex MacDowall, 79pts

2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings (after Rd18):
1st Yvan Muller, 315pts; 10th Alex MacDowall, 52pts

Photo by Romano Poli/www.photo-4.com

Alex MacDowall - Sonoma WTCCAlex MacDowall enjoyed a hugely successful maiden visit to Sonoma in the United States over the weekend, 22nd/23rd September, by claiming two highly competitive Yokohama Independents Trophy podiums during rounds 17 and 18 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

Finishing runner-up in class in both encounters at the 4.03-kilometre Californian track, the Carlisle 21-year-old achieved his goal of closing down the top three drivers in the Independents Trophy title race and concluded the event just six points shy of third position.

Chalking up the sixth and seventh podium finishes of his debut season in the WTCC, Alex also came incredibly close to securing the fastest Independents Trophy lap in each outing – missing out by just 0.023 seconds in race one and 0.1 seconds in the second outing. Notably, the Bamboo Engineering driver lapped faster than outright winner and ‘works’ Chevrolet driver Rob Huff in race two.

Qualifying second in class for round 17, a mere 0.020 seconds shy of the Yokohama Independents Trophy pole position and sixth overall on the grid, the Cumbrian driver held position at the start but moved into the top five a few laps into the race following mechanical problems for Alain Menu’s car.

Lapping consistently strongly behind vastly experienced touring car racer Gabriele Tarquini, Alex worked hard to fend off the Italian’s team-mate Tiago Monteiro and impressively maintained fifth overall in his Chevrolet Cruze, second in class, to the chequered flag on lap 13.

Lining-up fifth again on the ‘reverse’ grid for round 18, as a result of the top eight finishers from race one being flipped, the WTCC rookie wasn’t able to repeat his earlier good start unfortunately and slipped to eighth and then to the tail of the overall top 10.

Importantly though, most of the drivers who did manage to squeeze ahead weren’t from the Independents Class so the loss of places wasn’t as significant as it might have been. By lap five, Alex was back into eighth overall and third in the Independents chase and he swiftly moved into second in class following an excursion for Franz Engstler.

Running as high as sixth overall into the final third of the race, Alex slipped behind Tom Coronel’s BMW on lap 11 but held on to second in the Yokohama Independents Trophy to cap a successful weekend of racing with just three events remaining in the 2012 championship.

“The first race was really good, finishing fifth overall and second in the Independents was a great result and just what we wanted”, said Alex, “The aim was to close the gap to the top three in the Indy championship this weekend and we’ve done that so I’m really pleased. In race two we lost a few places early on but it wasn’t a problem, overall it’s been a really good weekend.”

Next stop on the WTCC schedule is a visit to the opposite side of the globe with rounds 19 and 20 of the championship taking place at Suzuka in Japan, home of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix, over the weekend 20th/21st October.

2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd18):
1st Norbert Michelisz, 134pts; 4th Alex MacDowall, 79pts

2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings (after Rd18):
1st Yvan Muller, 315pts; 10th Alex MacDowall, 52pts

Photo by Romano Poli/www.photo-4.com.

Alex MacDowallCarlisle racing driver Alex MacDowall cannot wait for the resumption of the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship next weekend, 22nd/23rd September, when the high-profile series makes a return to action with its first ever visit to Sonoma in the USA after a lengthy nine week summer sojourn.

The 21-year-old WTCC rookie, who drives a 1.6-litre turbo-powered Chevrolet Cruze for Yokohama Independents Trophy squad Bamboo Engineering, really started to get into his stride during the last few events before the mid-season hiatus.

His breakthrough moment came with a maiden class victory at the Salzburgring in Austria during round 11. From there, the Cumbrian scorched to further Independents Trophy podiums in Portimao, Portugal, and at Curitiba in Brazil last time out to make it five rostrum finishes for the year.

Alex will arrive in America fourth in the Independents Trophy standings, just a dozen points behind experienced WTCC driver Stefano D’Aste in third and 48 points shy of the top of the table. Although the gap to class leader Norbert Michelisz is significant, the Briton is confident he has the ability to become an increasingly important factor in the outcome of the 2012 championship.

“We’re only 12 points off third place in the Independents Trophy and I’m sure we can try and move into that top three next weekend”, commented Alex, “My goal is still to try and win the title, we’re a way off at the moment but there will be double points on offer at Macau [the final round of 2012] and anything can happen before then.”

“I’ve been working really hard on my fitness since the last round in Brazil and I’ve been learning as much as possible about Sonoma on the simulator. I’m not sure if many of the others will have ever been to the track so it should be a level playing field from that point of view. We will be carrying maximum ballast again on the Chevys though, which will mean extra wear on the tyres.”

The visit to the Sonoma raceway in California, formerly known as Sears Point in years gone by, will mean another mammoth journey across the Atlantic for Alex. In fact, the remainder of the WTCC season is very ‘travel-heavy’ with a visit to Suzuka in Japan in October followed by races in China and Macau in November.

“I’m feeling very confident for next weekend, it’ll be great to experience another new circuit and I really think the Chevrolet should be strong”, added Alex, “It’s a fantastic car, the class of the field, so I’m looking forward to my first visit to Sonoma.”

Alex’s first experience of the Californian track will come during a brief half-hour test session on Friday, 21st September, with two further free practice runs to follow on Saturday, 22nd September, ahead of qualifying at 14.15 local time (22.15 UK time).

Both races will take place on Sunday, 23rd September, with round 17 scheduled to get underway at 12.20 local time (20.20 UK time) and round 18 set to follow at approximately 13.35 local time (21.35 UK time). Live television coverage of both races will be carried on British Eurosport – check listings for further details.

2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd16):
1st Yvan Muller, 287pts; 13th Alex MacDowall, 36pts

2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings (after Rd16):
1st Norbert Michelisz, 111pts; 4th Alex MacDowall, 63pts

Photo by Romano Poli/www.photo-4.com

Alex MacDowall - Slovakia WTCCAlex MacDowall holds seventh place in the Yokohama Independents Trophy standings following the fourth event of the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship in Slovakia on Sunday, 29th April, despite an incredibly challenging weekend at the wheel of his turbo-powered Chevrolet Cruze.

On the back foot going into rounds seven and eight after battling horrendous understeer issues during practice and qualifying, the 21-year-old from Carlisle had an improved set-up for raceday but was prevented from making the most of it when shunted out of the second encounter.

Lining-up an uncharacteristic 16th on the grid, ninth in class, for race one as a result of the struggles, Alex headed into round seven with heightened confidence following a positive morning warm-up and made good progress in the particularly hot conditions at the Slovakia Ring.

With his Bamboo Engineering-run Cruze more forgiving on corner entry than at any other point during the weekend, he was able to battle competitively in the midfield and took an eventual top 12 finish overall, ninth in class. Just 0.9 seconds behind the BMW of Mehdi Bennani at the flag, he was also only a further half second adrift of the works Chevrolet of championship leader Yvan Muller.

Starting round eight from 15th on the grid, Alex was embroiled in a close fight with the BMWs once again but hopes of a top 10 challenge at least were halted on lap three when his Cruze was rammed on the run into turn eight. Resulting in a hefty impact and broken steering, the Cumbrian racer managed to limp back to the pits but his weekend was over.

“I went up the inside of a BMW at turn seven and we were side-by-side for the next corner but another BMW must have locked-up on the other side of me as the next thing I knew, I’d been hit and it bent the steering”, explained Alex, “It was far too optimistic, I’m not cross-eyed so I can’t see cars coming from two different directions at the same time!

“It’s disappointing as the car felt a lot better in the races then it did all weekend up to that point, we had new tyres as we didn’t get through to Q2 so that helped as well. The team found a better set-up though overnight after qualifying so, following the warm-up, I felt pretty confident.”

He added: “In the first race I decided to try and stay out of trouble as much as possible, a lot of cars went off, so I just wanted a sensible finish. In the second race I didn’t make the best of starts but I chipped away though and made up ground, to be taken out by a stupid move was very annoying.”

With no time to rest, the WTCC competitors now travel to the Hungaroring for the ninth and 10th rounds of the 2012 season next weekend, 5th/6th May. Although another track Alex has never raced at before, the fifth event of the championship in Hungary is probably the one he’s been looking forward to the most as he sees the venue as one more akin to the style of a British circuit.

“It’s been a pretty hectic few weeks but I’m really looking forward to next weekend, I think Hungary will suit is”, said Alex, “Most of the tracks on the WTCC calendar are wide with big corners, they don’t apex like those on a UK circuit and that’s what I’m having to get used to. Hungaroring is more like a UK track in that respect so I’m hoping we can challenge right near the front.”

Following two free practice sessions on Saturday, 5th May, qualifying at the Hungaroring will get underway at 13.00 (UK time). After the usual warm-up session on Sunday, 6th May, round nine will take place at 10.20 (UK time) with round 10 following at 13.35 (UK time) – all of the action is set to be screened on the Eurosport television network.

2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd8):
1st Yvan Muller, 148pts; 15th Alex MacDowall, 10pts

2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings (after Rd8):
1st Pepe Oriola, 62pts; 7th Alex MacDowall, 19pts

Photo by Romano Poli / www.photo-4.com

Alex MacDowallBamboo Engineering driver Alex MacDowall endured a pair of tough races during the third event of the FIA World Touring Car Championship at Marrakech in Morocco today, Sunday, 15th April, with round five contact and a driveshaft failure in round six costing him the chance of two top finishes.

Showing strong pace throughout the weekend, confirmed when he posted the second fastest Yokohama Independents Trophy time in qualifying, the 21-year-old looked a safe bet for two class podiums at the very least in his Chevrolet Cruze – but raceday didn’t go according to plan.

An unfortunate lap one incident in round five, while running in the top six, resulted in Alex dropping down the field to 21st and last place. Even so, he mounted an excellent recovery to battle back into the top 12 and sixth in the Independents Trophy classification; importantly securing class points.

For round six the WTCC rookie lined-up on the class pole position and fifth overall but after a good getaway, retirement soon followed on lap one due to the driveshaft issue. Although wrecking Alex’s hopes of a potential first Yokohama Independents Trophy victory, he still managed to end the visit to North Africa holding on to fifth in the Independents championship and 11th in the overall title race.

“It’s not been a helpful couple of races for the championship, just one of those weekends really, but we know we’ve got the speed”, commented the Cumbrian racer, “Now it’s all about everything coming together for us, we had good pace this weekend but the races just didn’t work out. We just need to keep working hard, performing well in qualifying and then the rest will follow.”

The weekend started perfectly for Alex during testing on Friday, 13th April, as the quickest of the Independents runners with the fifth fastest time overall, 1m47.655 seconds (151.98 km/h). After two further free practice sessions on Saturday, 14th April, the all-important qualifying session followed where he was just pipped to the class pole position by little more than four hundredths of a second.

Progressing through the first part of qualifying with the 11th fastest time overall, fourth in class, Alex only had one set of tyres to use in the grid-determining second session so had to ensure he made full use of them. Driving impressively, he posted a time of 1m44.544 seconds (156.50 km/h) to place seventh overall and second quickest Independent.

“We had to use more tyres in the first part of qualifying just to get through as the works cars were much quicker”, explained Alex, “I could only afford one run in Q2 but I was happy with how it turned out, we were only just pipped to the Independents pole – it was really close.”

After a fault-free warm-up session on Sunday morning, round five started well for Alex and he made a good job of the rolling start to hold sixth position – inheriting the place after Gabriele Tarquini had been put back to 12th on the grid following a penalty.

Running tight in the slipstream behind Tom Coronel’s BMW up to the second chicane, as the Dutch driver hit the brakes earlier than Alex expected the inevitable contact resulted in a massive loss of time for the Briton. Recovering at the tail of the field, Alex mounted a stirring fight-back and battled all the way back to 12th overall and sixth in the Independents Trophy.

“I had a really good slipstream behind [Tom] Coronel, he was holding a very defensive line but he braked early and it caught me out”, reflected Alex, “I locked-up the fronts and had to run straight on, as it was so narrow there on that part of the track I had to reverse as well before rejoining so it lost me a lot of time. I did recover quite well though and was happy to get back in the points.”

All attention now turns to rounds seven and eight of the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship which will take place a fortnight from now, over the weekend 28th/29th April, at the Slovakia Ring in Slovakia – a brand new venue on the WTCC calendar.

2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd6):
1st Yvan Muller, 130pts; 11th Alex MacDowall, 10pts

2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings (after Rd6):
1st Pepe Oriola, 51pts; 5th Alex MacDowall, 19pts

Photo by Romano Poli.

Alex MacDowall - Monza, WTCCBritain’s Alex MacDowall concluded his maiden weekend in the FIA World Touring Car Championship tied for the lead in the Yokohama Independents Trophy after securing second and third place results in rounds one and two of the season at Monza today, Sunday, 11th March.

Marking the Carlisle 21-year-old’s first ever visit to the legendary Italian track, the WTCC rookie was immediately on the pace during pre-event testing and remained a consistent front-runner through qualifying and both races to cap a highly impressive debut.

Having only confirmed his deal to graduate into the WTCC less than a fortnight ago, the weekend was very much one of firsts for the Bamboo Engineering driver – a new team, a new turbo powered Chevrolet Cruze to adjust to and it was his first meeting on Yokohama tyres. In addition, he also had to run the maximum 40 kilograms of ‘success ballast’ due to Chevrolet having won the 2011 title.

Taking everything in his stride Alex qualified eighth fastest overall for round one, within just 0.6 seconds of pole-sitting touring car legend Gabriele Tarquini. He went on to finish eighth in the opening encounter, runner-up in the Independents class, before taking seventh and third in class in round two to lay down an impressive marker to the established WTCC order.

“It’s been a good first weekend”, said Alex, “We’re in a three-way tie at the top of the Independents Trophy and we get maximum prize money as well I think, so I’m happy with that. We’re here to try and win the Independents title, there’s no point looking at the main championship, so to have come away from Monza with a share of the lead is a good way to start the season.”

Cumbrian star immediately on WTCC pace at Monza
Other than a brief shakedown in the UK last week, the Monza test on Thursday, 8th March, was Alex’s first true outing in his turbo-engined Cruze. He immediately shone with a sensational run to close-out the morning fourth fastest, behind only the three works Chevrolets, with a best time of 1m58.734 seconds – just 0.4 seconds shy of reigning and three-time WTCC Champion Yvan Muller.

In the afternoon, times dropped further but Alex remained within 0.4 seconds of pace-setter Muller to post a best of 1m58.415 seconds. Topping the fourth of the five sessions with that time, he rounded out the day fourth quickest overall and leading Yokohama Independents Trophy runner.

After a day’s rest on Friday the action resumed on Saturday, 10th March, and in qualifying Alex progressed through the opening 20-minute period as one of the top 12 qualifiers before securing the eighth fastest time, second best Independent, in the all-important 10-minute second session.

“Qualifying was OK, we tagged on to the works Chevrolets in Q2 and it worked well”, said Alex, “The rear of the car was quite tricky during practice but we made changes to the set-up for qualifying and it felt better. The balance of the turbo Cruze is different to the car I raced last year in the BTCC, the front is heavier. The main thing to adjust to though is the lack of engine braking on a turbo.”

This morning’s brief warm-up period was initially red-flagged after just a couple of minutes when the SEAT of Darryl O’Young suffered a major engine fire but at the resumption, Alex posted the fifth best lap and was quickest of the Independent runners.

Round one took place in bright and sunny conditions and at the rolling start, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star maintained his eighth place on the run into the first chicane but a multi-car tangle just ahead resulted in him being bumped back several positions.

Running 11th overall and fifth in the Independents class into lap three, Alex mounted a committed recovery and after a two lap Safety Car period just prior to mid-distance he made his way back into the Independents top three after passing the BMW of Norbert Michelisz.

On lap 11, having sensibly allowed the works Chevrolet of former British Touring Car Champion Alain Menu to go through, Alex took second in class and eighth overall at the expense of the slowing SEAT of Aleksei Dudukalo to secure a pleasing result for his maiden WTCC race.

For race two, with the top 10 qualifiers reversed, Alex was due to line-up third on the grid but this became second when Dudukalo was unable to take the start. Although slipping back to third, the Briton held the place until lap four when squeezed out at the first chicane.

Wisely allowing the trio of works Cruzes to then pass, so as not to hinder his Independents Trophy battle, Alex continued third in class, seventh overall. Climbing into the top six, second in class, on lap eight, he almost grabbed the Independents lead at Ascari but was pushed wide over the kerbs.

Recovering the enforced slide brilliantly, the talented Cumbrian battled back superbly to take second in the Independents Trophy and seventh place overall. He also concluded both races as the second highest placed British driver, behind only vastly experienced WTCC campaigner Robert Huff.

There is now a three-week break from action before the World Touring Car Championship resumes at Valencia in Spain over the weekend 31st March/1st April.

2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd2):
8th Alex MacDowall, 10pts

2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings (after Rd2):
=1st Stefano D’Aste, Pepe Oriola & Alex MacDowall, 14pts

Photo by Romano Poli / www.photo-4.com