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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Good start for Carlisle driver Alex MacDowall in WTCC

Carlisle's Alex MacDowall finished his maiden weekend in the FIA World Touring Car Championship tied for the lead in the Yokohama Independents Trophy.

Alex MacDowall photo
Alex MacDowall

The Carlisle driver secured second and third place results in rounds one and two of the season at Monza in Italy.

Marking the 21-year-old’s first ever visit to the track, the WTCC rookie was immediately on the pace during pre-event testing and remained a consistent front-runner through qualifying and both races to cap a highly impressive debut.

Having only confirmed his deal to graduate into the WTCC less than a fortnight ago, the weekend was very much one of firsts for the Bamboo Engineering driver – a new team, a new turbo powered Chevrolet Cruze to adjust to and it was his first meeting on Yokohama tyres. He also had to run the maximum 40 kg of ‘success ballast’ due to Chevrolet having won the 2011 title.

MacDowall qualified eighth fastest overall for round one, within just 0.6 seconds of the pole of touring car legend Gabriele Tarquini.

He finished eighth in the opening encounter, runner-up in the Independents class, before taking seventh – third in class – in round two to lay down an impressive marker to the established WTCC order.

“It’s been a good first weekend”, said Alex. “We’re in a three-way tie at the top of the Independents Trophy and we get maximum prize money as well I think, so I’m happy with that.

“We’re here to try and win the Independents title. There’s no point looking at the main championship, so to have come away from Monza with a share of the lead is a good way to start the season.”

Round one took place in bright and sunny conditions and at the rolling start, the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star maintained his eighth place on the run into the first chicane but a multi-car tangle just ahead resulted in him being bumped back several positions.

Running 11th overall and fifth in the Independents class into lap three, MacDowall mounted a committed recovery and after a two-lap Safety Car period just prior to mid-distance he made his way back into the Independents top three after passing the BMW of Norbert Michelisz.

On lap 11, having sensibly allowed the works Chevrolet of former British Touring Car Champion Alain Menu to go through, MacDowall took second in class and eighth overall at the expense of the slowing SEAT of Aleksei Dudukalo to secure a pleasing result for his maiden WTCC race.

For race two, with the top 10 qualifiers reversed, MacDowall was due to line-up third on the grid but this became second when Dudukalo was unable to take the start. Although slipping back to third, the Briton held the place until lap four when squeezed out at the first chicane.

After allowing the trio of works Cruzes to pass, so as not to hinder his Independents Trophy battle, MacDowall continued third in class, seventh overall.

Climbing into the top six, second in class, on lap eight, he almost grabbed the Independents lead at Ascari but was pushed wide over the kerbs. Recovering the enforced slide brilliantly, the talented Cumbrian battled back superbly to take second in the Independents Trophy and seventh place overall. He also finished both races as the second British driver, behind only vastly experienced WTCC campaigner Robert Huff.

There is now a three-week break from action before the Championship resumes at Valencia in Spain over the weekend March 31/April 1.

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