MacDowall saves best for last at frustrating Knockhill
Carlisle’s Alex MacDowall endured a highly frustrating weekend of Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship action at Knockhill in Scotland over the weekend, 3rd/4th September, where the power and performance advantage of the turbo-engined opposition made for a very difficult event.
At the wheel of his normally-aspirated S2000 specification Chevrolet Cruze, the 20-year-old worked incredibly hard with the RML engineers to try and overcome the lack of parity but the end result was one of the hardest events of the 2011 season so far.
Disappointed to qualify eighth fastest, especially as he was on pole position at the Fife track last season with a record-breaking lap, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Superstar was also caught up in highly unfortunate contact in two of the three races.
His best result of 10th place came during the third and final encounter of the weekend on Sunday afternoon where a well judged drive, from 19th on the grid, at least netted him a point. Even so, he slipped from seventh to ninth in the championship and ended the event justly annoyed.
“It was one of those weekends to put behind you”, said Alex, “Once you’re on the back-foot like we were in qualifying, it’s a massive struggle. Being quite high up with the altitude at Knockhill, we really suffered with a lack of horsepower from our normally aspirated engine – the turbo cars can suck the air in a lot more so they had double the advantage.
“We’re really up against it this year, the Cruze is a fantastic car with great handling but when you’re so far down on power in a straight line against the turbos it’s impossible to compete. We did get quite a bit of contact too which didn’t help, it was a really disappointing weekend.”
Hoping for a strong event in Scotland, with his family hailing from Ayrshire, Alex managed to make a decent getaway at the start of the opening race but as the field passed through Leslie’s and down to Scotsman, the Silverline Chevrolet driver was forced out wide into the gravel.
Dropping to the tail end of the top 20, he was caught-up in another incident soon after and ended up with an advertising hoarding stuck over the front of his car. Causing the engine temperature to rapidly rise and overheat, Alex was radioed into the pits by the team but just before he made his stop to rectify the issue the banner came loose – unbeknown to Alex and the team.
The fruitless stop cost a great deal of time but he went back into the race and did as good a job as he could to climb up the order to an eventual finish of 12th position. Even so, he was disappointed to miss out on the points after such a strong weekend at Snetterton last time out.
Hoping for a more straightforward run in round 20, the Cumbrian was tagged at the hairpin on lap one but somehow managed to correct the car and maintain his starting spot of 12th place. Into Scotsman on lap two though, he was again the victim of contact and shunted to the back of the order. Climbing back as high as 16th, on lap 24 things were compounded with retirement in the pits.
For the final race, round 21, Alex had to start back on the 10th row but a spirited performance, coupled with a few incidents for others along the way, enabled him to come through strongly to at least sign-off the weekend with a point-scoring 10th place finish.
Rockingham in Northamptonshire is next on the BTCC schedule with rounds 22, 23 and 24 taking place over the weekend 17th/18th September.
Provisional 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Standings (after Rd21):
1st Gordon Shedden, 182pts; 9th Alex MacDowall, 74pts