Podium return for fast and fearless MacDowall at Snetterton
Silverline Chevrolet ace Alex MacDowall made a welcome return to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship podium at Snetterton 300 Circuit on Sunday, 7th August, with a terrific second place finish during the first of the event’s three races – his fourth career BTCC rostrum visit.
Finishing just a couple of seconds behind reigning champion team-mate Jason Plato to mark a superb one-two finish for the RML-run squad, Alex’s fantastic result was backed up with consistently strong points finishes in the day’s two other outings – fourth in race two and fifth in race three.
Easily the Carlisle 20-year-old’s most successful weekend of the 2011 season, his 26-point haul has hoisted him up into seventh place in the championship. His weekend wasn’t without drama though, a shocking flash-fire in the engine bay of his Chevrolet Cruze – while stationary in the pits at the midway point of qualifying on Saturday, 6th August – ruling him out of a pole position challenge.
Nonetheless, Alex’s best time to that point on his first set of tyres, 1m58.908 seconds (89.88mph), was still good enough to secure third on the timesheets and a spot at the head of the second row for round 16.
Making a tremendous start to the opening encounter around the new 2.97-mile Norfolk circuit, the BRDC Superstar moved to the inside of Gordon Shedden on the run from the grid to grab second place but Alex was re-challenged as he headed through the first corner, Riches.
Luckily avoiding Matt Neal’s spinning Honda Civic by the narrowest of margins as the field exited the turn, Alex managed to hold on to second place behind pole-sitter Plato as they threaded their way through into the infield. Soaking up immense pressure from the pursuing turbo-powered Honda of Shedden, from mid-distance Alex was able to edge clear to secure his second podium of 2011.
“I knew Gordon (Shedden) was quick on the straights so I had to defend a couple of times but around the corners I was so much quicker than him and into the braking zones I was so comfortable I didn’t really have to defend”, said Alex, “Towards the end it was quite an easy race, I just backed off which was a really nice position to be in!
“When Matt (Neal) spun I was about an inch away from T-boning him – that was really close. I dived to the left and, luckily, there was no-one trying to get past me on that side so we were fortunate but then everything went well. It’s great to be back on the podium.”
Rapid throughout Snetterton weekend…
On the circuit’s previous layout last year, his debut season in the UK’s premier motor racing series, Alex made history by becoming the youngest driver ever to qualify on pole position in the BTCC. On the new 300 Circuit configuration this weekend, he was immediately up to speed again and set the fastest time in the second of Saturday’s practice sessions during the build-up to qualifying.
Following his fantastic result in round 16, Alex started on the front-row alongside Plato for round 17 and he made another excellent getaway. Unfortunately though, as he looked to the outside of his team-mate into Riches it gave Shedden a chance to dive up the inside and into the hairpin Alex was shuffled down the order to fifth place.
Plato too had been delayed and the Silverline Chevrolet duo ran nose-to-tail for the majority of the race. On lap nine, Plato managed to get the inside line on third placed Frank Wrathall out of the Bomb Hole and into Coram and Alex needed no second invitation to follow him through to go fourth where he remained to the chequered flag.
With the top seven finishing order from race two ‘reversed’ on the grid for round 18, Alex started the final encounter from fourth position and although slipping behind Plato at the start he mounted huge pressure on the sister Cruze.
Out of the chicane on the penultimate lap, the power of the turbo Hondas was still apparent with Neal managing to out-drag Alex on the run up Senna Straight. Dropping him to sixth, he continued to press on and re-took fifth place at the chicane on the final tour when he pressured Dave Newsham into a mistake.
Next on the calendar for Alex is a visit north of the border to his ancestral home of Scotland for the seventh race meeting of the season at Knockhill in Fife on 3rd/4th September. The MacDowall family originates from Ayrshire so the Silverline Chevrolet racer will be aiming for some strong results at the undulating track, not least as he set a new qualifying lap record there in 2010.
Provisional 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Standings (after Rd18):
1st Mat Jackson, 158pts; 7th Alex MacDowall, 73pts