Alex MacDowall made a dream start to the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship at Monza in Italy on Sunday, 24th March, by claiming a comfortable Yokohama Independents Trophy victory – from class pole position – and his first ever outright WTCC podium with third place overall.
In treacherous conditions, with non-stop rain making the track surface incredibly slippery and grip levels very difficult to judge, the Carlisle 22-year-old delivered a masterful drive at the wheel of his Chevrolet Cruze to get his second season at world championship level underway on a terrific footing.
“It’s great to have taken an Indy win on the first weekend of the season, good for the team, but my focus is on the main championship so third on the overall podium is the most important result”, said the Bamboo Engineering driver, “Most of the cars around me are fighting for the main title so that’s what I’m aiming for too this year.”
The weekend began as planned in the opening free practice on Saturday, 23rd March, with Alex posting the fastest Independents lap to go sixth quickest overall. He was a sensational second on the overall timesheets in session two and progressed easily through the first qualifying session, before securing third on the grid in qualifying two and the Independents Trophy pole.
So bad was the weather ahead of round one, officials decided to begin the race under Safety Car conditions but on lap two the action properly got underway with Alex maintaining third and running close behind the pair of ex-works RML Chevrolets ahead.
Pulling comfortably clear of the chasing pack, the Cumbrian built a cushion of around five seconds prior to the re-emergence of the Safety Car on lap six. At the re-start, Alex fended off a challenge from Pepe Oriola and built a healthy gap once again as he splashed to a memorable third place and Yokohama Independents Trophy win – the third of his career – in addition to the fastest class lap.
“In qualifying we should have had a front row really but [Gabriele] Tarquini spoiled the party as he used me for a tow”, explained Alex, “That meant I couldn’t use James [Nash – Bamboo team-mate] for a tow so to have been third without the benefit of that showed how quick we were. We had the pace in the race as well, only 0.4 seconds off the fastest lap of all was good going.”
Disappointingly, round two was less fortunate for Alex with contact leading to his retirement to the pits at the end of the penultimate lap. The second encounter was certainly action-packed from the start, a difficult get away from seventh on the grid – fourth in class – dropping him into the pack.
Managing to climb back into the top 10 on the opening tour, fifth in the Independents, the Bamboo driver started to mount a good recovery but an excursion into the gravel on lap two meant he fell to 18th place overall.
Determined to battle back through, Alex stormed into 11th position and fourth in class but at the start of lap nine he was tagged from behind by the BMW of Tom Coronel. Bizarrely though, he was forced into retirement due to a front-end puncture rather than damage to the rear of the car!
“I could have had the points lead in the Independents without that”, he commented, “It’s a shame we’re not leading it but we showed we had the pace here, all weekend, and it’s the outright speed that’s really hard to find. You need consistency to win a championship, but that’s easier to find than those last few tenths of a second to be up there with the fastest guys every weekend.”
Alex will be back in action just a fortnight from now, over the weekend 6th/7th April, at Marrakech street circuit in Morocco for rounds three and four of the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings:
4th Alex MacDowall, 18pts
2013 FIA WTCC Yokohama Independents Trophy Driver Standings:
2nd Alex MacDowall, 12pts