First podium of season for BTCC ace MacDowall At Oulton
Alex MacDowall raced to his first podium of the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season at a damp Oulton Park Island Circuit this afternoon, Sunday, 5th June, with a fantastic drive to third place in the first of the weekend’s three encounters.
With the weather playing a major factor in each of the races at the challenging Cheshire track, the Carlisle 20-year-old proved his abundant skill by carving his way through from seventh on the grid in round 10 to third position and then backing that result up with a strong fifth place in round 11.
Despite a non-score in round 12, the result of an enforced pit-stop due to a problem with the gear lever on his Chevrolet Cruze, Alex heads to Croft in North Yorkshire a fortnight from now edging ever closer to the championship top seven after bagging 16 points this weekend.
“We’ve probably got the best car out there in damp and wet conditions”, said Alex, “It’s a shame we had the problem in the last race but overall it’s been a good weekend. It’s fantastic to be back on the podium, not a bad result considering we’re still 40 horsepower down on the turbo cars!”
The opening day of action on Saturday, 4th June, took place in glorious conditions and the two free practice sessions went very well indeed for Alex – the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) ‘Superstar’ fourth quickest in the opening run and a superb second fastest in session two.
With hopes high for qualifying, Alex was on course for a second row grid slot when his car got away from him at Druids and slammed hard into the barriers – luckily he still managed to hold on to the seventh fastest time and a fourth row start for round 10.
The RML mechanics from Silverline Chevrolet did a typically outstanding job to thoroughly repair Alex’s car and he repaid them well in the first of the rain-affected races with a terrific drive. Effectively starting sixth on the grid due to a problem for Tom Chilton’s Ford Focus, Alex got away well on the damp track and moved up to fifth into Old Hall.
Running in a tight group of four cars all battling over second place, Alex clearly had good pace but wasn’t quite able to carve open a clean passing opportunity. On lap five though, he took fourth place off Ford Focus driver Andy Neate with a great pass around the outside into the chicane.
Closing up to championship leader Matt Neal, Alex pressured the Honda driver at Old Hall and Cascades before getting a good cut-back at the exit of the hairpin which enabled him to pass for third place into the braking zone for the chicane.
Even though the rain ceased, Alex continued to post strong lap times and actually ended the race as the fastest of the cars not running slick tyres – posting his quickest effort two laps from the finish – to take a tremendous third place and maiden podium of 2011.
“I knew the car was quick and for the first couple of laps I was all over Jason (Plato) but he was being backed up by Andy (Neate) so there was no way through”, said the Cumbrian, “The wet conditions really did help us against the power of the turbos – the rain definitely leveled things out.”
Starting third on the grid for round 11, which also took place on a wet track, Alex closed right up behind team-mate Plato into Old Hall but lost out at the exit and was pushed back to sixth. Slipping to eighth after the first of two Safety Car periods, he fought back well to seventh before gaining two places on the last lap when Honda drivers Neal and Gordon Shedden made contact at the final turn.
Lining-up fifth on the grid for round 12, Alex ran strongly early on and climbed into the top four prior to a problem with his gear lever on lap six. Managing to recover to the pits, he lost two laps and so ended the race down in 18th position.
Next on the schedule for Alex and Silverline Chevrolet will be his second ‘home’ event of the season, a visit to Croft Circuit near Darlington over the weekend 18th/19th June.
Provisional 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Standings (after Rd12):
1st Matt Neal, 103pts; 8th Alex MacDowall, 44pts