Double Independents podium for MacDowall in Californian sunshine
Alex 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