FIFTH INDY WIN HELPS WTCC ACE MACDOWALL BECOME CLASS VICE-CHAMPION
Alex MacDowall chalked up his fifth Yokohama Independents Trophy race victory of the FIA World Touring Car Championship season on the streets of Macau, Sunday, 17th November, to help end his second year in the category as class Vice-Champion.
Rapid from the outset at the unique and immensely challenging Circuito da Guia, the 22-year-old from Carlisle was very quick in qualifying – where he secured the Independents Trophy pole position for race one with the sixth best time overall – and went on to claim a superb class win in round 23.
Determined to make it a double class victory in the final race of the season, Alex just missed out by a mere 0.5 seconds in the chaotic, twice re-started, encounter but did record the fastest Independents race lap on his way to the runner-up spot.
“It all went pretty well this weekend, I don’t think we could have done any better”, said the Bamboo Engineering racer, “To qualify sixth was good, I was pleased with that as Macau is such a tough track, especially when it’s only your second time there. We were fastest in sector one and sector three in qualifying, it was only the middle sector where I lost out and that’s just down to lack of experience.
“You always want to get wins so to be back on the top step of the Independents podium on the last weekend of the season was great. I was pushing hard to try and get the win in race two as well, I got the fastest Independents lap but second in class was still a good finish – to come back with the car in one piece was something as well after the carnage in race two!”
Moving to the top of the Independents times during free practice in the former Portuguese enclave on Friday, 15th November, Alex led the way in class again in the opening qualifying session with the fifth best time overall and in the all-important second run he bagged the Independents pole.
Producing a lap of 2m30.248 seconds (146.63 km/h) Alex was just 0.3 seconds shy of the outright front row and of the Chevrolet Cruze contingent, only reigning WTCC Champion Yvan Muller could set a quicker time.
With Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini unable to take the start of the first race due to engine problems, Alex immediately profited to move into fifth place overall and set about trying to pressure Norbert Michelisz for fourth place. While not quite able to make the breakthrough on the Honda, Alex held fifth throughout to seal a richly deserved fifth Independents victory of 2013.
Round 24 proved to be a typical Macau-style encounter with two major incidents leading to a pair of red flag stoppages. Chaos ensued early on when the cars of Michelisz and Tom Chilton tangled, leading to the Hungarian hitting the barriers and bouncing back onto the track – triggering an unfortunate pile-up and an immediate race stoppage.
Although caught-up, Alex was thankfully able to take the re-start behind the Safety Car where he held fifth overall initially before being held out wide by former champion Rob Huff. Running in sixth place, second in the Independents Trophy, the Cumbrian then moved back into fifth overall when Chilton’s car came to a halt on lap five.
The stricken Chevrolet was then tagged by Eurico De Jesus which led to another multi-car collision and brought out the red flags for the second time. At the re-start, Alex was elbowed back to sixth by Pepe Oriola but the Spaniard then hit James Thompson which meant Alex regained fifth where he remained to the finish on lap 11 – second in class for his 12th Independents podium of the year.
“It’s been a good end to the season”, he commented, “All of the Asian races have gone to plan, pretty much, and we’ve had a strong run-in to end the year. Early in the season we had a lot of bad luck, I was taken out in Marrakech and there were a few other hiccups along the way too. To end the season strongly is what we wanted and what we’ve managed to do, I’m really pleased.”
Final 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings:11th Alex MacDowall, 141pts
Final 2013 FIA WTCC Yokohama Independents Trophy Driver Standings:2nd Alex MacDowall, 150pts