MacDowall makes solid start to 2011 BTCC campaign
Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship front-runner Alex MacDowall made a solid start to his second season in the UK’s biggest motor racing category at Brands Hatch in Kent over the weekend, 2nd/3rd April, finishing the event eighth in the driver standings after three action-packed races.
Impressing as ever with his pace at the wheel of his Chevrolet Cruze, the 20-year-old from Carlisle qualified fifth fastest for the first round of 2011 – less than a 10th of a second shy of team-mate Jason Plato’s best time in the sister Silverline Chevrolet entry – and looked set for a strong raceday.
Getting away from the grid very well indeed, Alex moved into fourth at Paddock Hill Bend and looked for a way through to third at Druids Hairpin as the leaders bunched up into the slowest turn on the 1.2-mile Indy Circuit. As part of that, unfortunate contact occurred with former champion Matt Neal which resulted in the Honda driver visiting the gravel trap.
Following a short two-lap Safety Car period, to recover Neal’s car, racing resumed on lap four with Alex in third but Tom Chilton’s turbo-powered Ford Focus benefitted from a significant straight-line speed advantage and he was able to get a good slingshot off Cooper Straight into Surtees.
Alex tried to fight back immediately into McLaren but this then compromised his exit and he was pushed back to fifth by Mat Jackson’s Focus on the run into Paddock at the start of lap five. Driving very hard to keep more of the turbo-engined cars at bay, Alex did a great job and although slipping to sixth at one point he finished round one a creditable fifth.
Starting fifth for round two, by virtue of his finishing position during the opening encounter, Alex looked to have made a stunning getaway as he scorched through to fourth again at Paddock and then third on the run to Druids. Race officials decided the BRDC Superstar had anticipated the lights a little too well though and he was served a drive-through penalty which effectively ended his race.
Determined to minimise the damage to his hopes of another points finish, Alex pushed hard after pitting at the end of lap five but his task was an extremely difficult one – rejoining, as he did, in 19th position. Nonetheless, he drove well to climb back into 13th at the finish and set third fastest lap.
For round three, the young Cumbrian fought through into ninth place after a committed drive from the seventh row of the grid. Once again having difficulties matching the turbo cars for straight-line speed, he did a good job to finish the event with another handful of championship points.
“It’s certainly been an eventful weekend”, he commented, “I’m disappointed how it all turned out with some of the incidents on track and the drive-through penalty but we had a good go at trying to score as many points as we could. The turbo cars are proving to be really quick and that’ll be even more the case at Donington in a couple of weeks. It’ll be tough but we’ll give it all we’ve got.”
Rounds four, five and six of the 2011 BTCC season will take place at Donington Park in Leicestershire two weeks from now, 16th/17th April.