Front-running pace not rewarded in Marrakech
Bamboo 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