Positive end to mixed Croft weekend for MacDowall
Carlisle’s Alex MacDowall heads into the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s seven week summer break ninth in the driver standings following a mixed outing at his ‘home’ track, Croft in North Yorkshire, over the weekend, 18th/19th June.
Alex started the event very well on Saturday morning by posting the best time in a rain-affected opening practice session before opting to sit out the second run – along with Silverline Chevrolet team-mate Jason Plato.
In qualifying, the 20-year-old continued his strong form by securing a spot on the second row of the grid for the first race of the weekend with a lap of 1m25.547 seconds (89.42mph) placing him fourth on the timing screens.
With hopes high of a potential podium challenge during Sunday’s wet opening encounter, Alex made a decent enough getaway from the grid but contact at the first corner, Clervaux, dropped him down to ninth place.
Moving back up to eighth on lap two, Alex spent the next seven laps glued to the back of Tom Boardman’s SEAT but with no clear-cut chance to make a pass. Following a short Safety Car period, racing resumed on lap 11 but things came unstuck on lap 16 out of the chicane when a moment on the grass dropped him down to 16th. Before the finish, he did manage to move back up to 14th place.
By the start of round 14, the track had dried sufficiently for full slick tyres to be used and from the seventh row of the grid Alex immediately made progress into the top 12. Climbing into 11th place on the second tour, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Superstar then took 10th from Tom Onslow-Cole on lap four prior to a Safety Car appearance due to Boardman going off at Hawthorn.
At the re-start on lap eight, Alex was unfortunately pushed out wide at Clervaux which cost him a number of positions but he battled back superbly into seventh place with some terrific driving and overtaking. On lap 15 though, as the second quickest driver on track at that point, Alex was forced to retire due to an oil leak caused by a blown head-gasket.
Bitterly disappointed to have missed out on a potential top six finish at least, Alex intended to make amends in the last of the weekend’s races – round 15 – even though he had to start from the eighth row of the grid. This time, no problems arose and Alex was able to steer his Chevrolet Cruze to a very well deserved eighth place finish.
On the penultimate lap he did manage to get ahead of championship leader Matt Neal but at the end of the final tour, the Honda Civic moved back through and held Alex off on the drag to the line with just 0.5 seconds splitting the pair at the chequered flag.
“I’m quite pleased with how the last race turned out, it was good to end the weekend with a really positive performance”, said Alex, “In the first race I was tapped sideways by (Gordon) Shedden and that knocked me a long way down – really disappointing as we’d started on the second row.
“I was making good progress in race two and things were looking quite good but then the head gasket blew so I had no choice but to pit. The team fitted a new one for race three and at least we were able to take some points away with a good drive through the order. The car has felt really good this weekend, it’s just a shame the results haven’t really reflected that.”
There is now a lengthy seven week break from action over the summer for the BTCC with the second half of the season getting underway at Snetterton in Norfolk over the weekend 6th/7th August.
Provisional 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Standings (after Rd15):
1st Matt Neal, 140pts; 9th Alex MacDowall, 47pts