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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Success in Japan for Cumbrian touring car driver Alex MacDowall

Carlisle's Alex MacDowall took the second Yokohama Independents Trophy win of his rookie season in the FIA World Touring Car Championship with a star performance in round 19 at Suzuka in Japan last Sunday.

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Thumbs up: Tarraby’s Alex MacDowall

Adding fifth place in the Independents Trophy during round 20 on his first ever visit to the Far East, he goes into the next event in China a couple of weeks from now only five points shy of third place in the class championship standings. He has also moved up into ninth place in the overall WTCC driver standings.

MacDowall was in tremendous form from the start, posting the third fastest Yokohama Independents Trophy time in the brief test session on Friday at Suzuka East Circuit and then comfortably running inside the top 10 in both practice sessions before really turning up the heat in qualifying.

Posting the fourth best lap overall, the fastest of the Independents drivers, in the opening run, the Bamboo Engineering driver easily progressed into the all-important second period and took a richly deserved round 19 Yokohama Independents Trophy pole position – just 0.3 seconds shy of the outright pole.

He was on a roll and, with confidence justly high ahead of the opening encounter, MacDowall didn’t disappoint. Although slipping behind the vastly experienced Gabriele Tarquini through the first turn, he remained a constant threat to the Italian and utterly dominated the Independents class in his Chevrolet Cruze.

Setting the fastest Independents lap he finished race one over five seconds clear of his nearest rival and only 0.4 seconds behind Tarquini at the end of 26 laps to take win number two of his maiden WTCC season, and his eighth podium of the year.

Lining-up seventh overall on the ‘reverse grid’ for round 20, he soon slipped back to sixth in the Independents Trophy on the opening lap but hit back quickly and, after moving into the outright top 10 on lap three, he then passed Franz Engstler for fifth in class and ninth overall three laps later.

“I’m really happy to win again,” said the 21-year-old ECM-backed driver. “We had really good pace here this weekend, like we’ve had at the last few circuits we’ve visited, and we were very close to the works Chevys in qualifying and with race pace. It’s just frustrating the way the reverse grid races work, you couldn’t overtake so we ended up losing what we’d gained in the championship in the first race.

“There aren’t any slow corners on this track where you can overtake on the brakes so you end up just sitting in the train of cars. I crept slightly on the start so put the clutch back in but spun the wheels and lost about four places. I made two or three back but when I was behind I just couldn’t get by. It’s still been a good weekend, we’ve done a good job.”

The WTCC remains in the Far East for the final two events of the 2012 season with a visit to Shanghai International Circuit in China on 3-4 November, ahead of the championship finale in Macau on November 17-18.

In rallying, the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team came away from Rally Italia as the highest scoring team after a weekend of surprise exits. Russian Evgeny Novikov and Estonian driver Ott Tänak secured a double podium for the team on the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Sardinia.

World Champion Sebastien Loeb crashed out early in the event but he was quickly followed by Ford works drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg. This left the door open for the younger drivers in the M-Sport team to secure a ground-breaking result for the Cumbrian squad.

Meanwhile Carlisle tyre firm DMACK was also celebrating after its Peruvian driver Nicolas Fuchs took overall victory in the Production WRC category. DMACK also finished eighth overall in the hands of Martin Prokop and it’s been confirmed that Prokop will drive DMACK’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC on the final round of this year’s championship in Spain next month.

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