Incident-packed Shanghai costs MacDowall potential podiums
Carlisle’s Alex MacDowall still has his sights set on a top three finish in the FIA World Touring Car Championship’s Yokohama Independents Trophy standings despite two tough, incident-packed races at Shanghai International Circuit in China today, Sunday, 4th November.
Undoubtedly having the pace to challenge for the Independents Trophy podium in both encounters during the penultimate weekend of the WTCC season, contact at the beginning of both rounds 21 and 22 ruined the Chevrolet Cruze driver’s hopes – although he remains fourth in the class standings and is just one point outside the overall championship top 10 ahead of the 2012 finale in Macau.
Everything started perfectly for the Bamboo Engineering driver on Friday, 2nd November, during the sole test session where he posted the best time of all. After working on set-up in both free practice outings on Saturday, 3rd November, Alex was somewhat disappointed to qualify eighth for race one, fourth fastest of the Independents runners, as a result of a bit too much grip on the rear of his car.
Making a good getaway to round 21, the Cumbrian had to take the outside line into the first corner and held seventh place through the turn before getting caught-up in a multi-car tangle at the third corner. Initially exiting the turn in fourth overall, second in the Independents Trophy, the damage sustained in the contact unfortunately ended a run of eight consistently strong points-scoring races.
“We started off well as usual this weekend, we made some good preparation, but we set the car up on used rubber in FP1 and FP2 and made some changes for more grip at the rear – when we put the new tyres on for qualifying, there was just too much grip”, explained Alex, “Eighth wasn’t a bad place to start the first race, just not great though.
“My start was good, I was really pleased with that, but it all got a bit tangled up through the first couple of corners, as often happens. Coming towards the end of the championship, more people are taking a few risks and we just got caught-up in that.”
With just 30 minutes down-time between races, the Bamboo mechanics did a sterling job to ready Alex’s Chevrolet for round 22 where he was able to take-up third place overall on the ‘reverse grid’ which was also the Yokohama Independents Trophy pole position.
Aiming to make amends for the disappointment of the previous race, Alex got away cleanly from the line but contact from the fast-starting BMW of Norbert Michelisz, as the Hungarian tried to slice past on the inside at Turn One, knocked the Chevrolet sideways.
Recovering the car brilliantly Alex was then put wide into the second right-hander and by the time he was able to recover, more than half of the grid had streamed past. Ending the first lap in 19th place overall, the WTCC rookie mounted a determined fightback and just missed out on breaking into the Independents points – eventually taking 17th overall and 10th in class.
“I’m not sure what happened with [Norbert] Michelisz at the start of race two, I looked in my mirrors and everything was OK but I got a knock as I turned in”, said Alex, “Then I was hit again and had to take to the grass which ruined the race. It’s been a bad weekend really but we’re still fourth in the Independents and only a point away from the overall top 10 ahead of Macau – anything can happen there.”
Next up for the FIA World Touring Car Championship is its blue riband event, and grand finale of the 2012 season, at the Circuito da Guia street circuit in Macau. Rounds 23 and 24, which will each score double points, will take place over the weekend 17th/18th November.
2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd22):
1st Rob Huff, 390pts; 11th Alex MacDowall, 66pts
2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings (after Rd22):
1st Norbert Michelisz, 138pts; 4th Alex MacDowall, 95pts