MacDowall takes maiden WTCC Independents victory in Austria
Britain’s Alex MacDowall raced to his first Yokohama Independents Trophy victory during round 11 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship at the Salzburgring in Austria on Sunday, 20th May, with a superb drive from the class pole position to sixth place overall.
Setting the Independents’ pace from the off during the weekend’s opening practice session, the Carlisle 21-year-old was a major threat throughout the weekend – not just to his class rivals but also in terms of the outright championship contenders.
Claiming the class pole position for round 11 by 0.4 seconds, Alex made a good start to the first race and was never troubled as he confidently held the lead of the Yokohama Independents Trophy for the 14 lap duration to win by a second.
“It’s fantastic to have the first win, it’s given me much more confidence and there’s a real buzz now in the whole team going into the next round at Portimao”, commented Alex, “We were strong all weekend, right from the start, and the car worked really well. The championship is going to be tough to achieve so I’m just aiming now to try and get as many wins as we can for the rest of the season.”
So good was the Bamboo Engineering driver’s pace in qualifying, his class pole time of 1m27.573 seconds (174.34 km/h) was achieved without the benefit of a tow from another car – thought to be worth another 0.6 seconds at the ultra-fast Salzburgring.
“I got the best out of the tyres for the first time this year really, I didn’t kill them on the out-lap and each time we made a small change to the set-up we went a bit quicker”, he said, “It was a really good session, fantastic to get my first Independents pole and the extra point that went with it.”
After posting the fourth fastest time in morning warm-up, quickest in class, behind just the three RML-run ‘works’ Chevrolets, Alex headed into the first race with a great deal of optimism. Although Tiago Monteiro was able to get ahead of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star at the start, it proved no problem in terms of the Independents classification.
Running excellent pace throughout, Alex handled a mid-race Safety Car period perfectly which also gave each driver’s tyres the chance to cool slightly in the punishing heat – this concern later proved to be a major issue in round 12. Making no mistakes at the re-start, he maintained the class lead and piled on the pressure to the SEATs of Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini all the way to the flag.
For round 12, which ran without a Safety Car intervention, the baking hot temperatures had a say in the outcome of the race for several competitors, Alex being one of them as he suffered a puncture on lap eight at the fastest part of the track.
With the front-wheel drive cars particularly susceptible to the tyre issues, first ‘works’ Chevrolet driver Alain Menu was pitched into retirement at the flat-out turn nine and Alex almost immediately suffered a puncture of his own – his Cruze shooting off the circuit at the exact same point.
Prior to the retirement, the Cumbrian had been running in 15th overall following a robust opening lap in which he was forced wide onto the grass after being tagged by another car. Managing to recover, Alex climbed back up the order from last place but the puncture put paid to any hope of points.
“I got a knock on the rear quarter on the first lap which put me on the grass and I had to stay out there all the way round the corner until the train of cars had gone by”, said Alex, “I came back through reasonably well and then got a puncture about halfway through the race at the fastest corner on the track, just as [Alain] Menu had his.
“It’s the first puncture I’ve ever had in my racing career, I can’t believe the first one had to happen at 155mph! The Safety Car in the first race meant the tyres could have a bit of a breather, in the second one they were just getting hammered and that’s why the Chevys had problems.”
Although unable to score in round 12, Alex’s maiden Yokohama Independents Trophy win in round 11 means he has moved into a clear sixth in the class points standings. In the outright WTCC table, he ended the weekend in 14th position.
There are just two weeks to wait for rounds 13 and 14 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship which take place on 2nd/3rd June at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal.
2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd12):
1st Yvan Muller, 206pts; 14th Alex MacDowall, 21pts
2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings (after Rd12):
1st Pepe Oriola, 90pts; 6th Alex MacDowall, 38pts