Alex MacDowall holds seventh place in the Yokohama Independents Trophy standings following the fourth event of the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship in Slovakia on Sunday, 29th April, despite an incredibly challenging weekend at the wheel of his turbo-powered Chevrolet Cruze.
On the back foot going into rounds seven and eight after battling horrendous understeer issues during practice and qualifying, the 21-year-old from Carlisle had an improved set-up for raceday but was prevented from making the most of it when shunted out of the second encounter.
Lining-up an uncharacteristic 16th on the grid, ninth in class, for race one as a result of the struggles, Alex headed into round seven with heightened confidence following a positive morning warm-up and made good progress in the particularly hot conditions at the Slovakia Ring.
With his Bamboo Engineering-run Cruze more forgiving on corner entry than at any other point during the weekend, he was able to battle competitively in the midfield and took an eventual top 12 finish overall, ninth in class. Just 0.9 seconds behind the BMW of Mehdi Bennani at the flag, he was also only a further half second adrift of the works Chevrolet of championship leader Yvan Muller.
Starting round eight from 15th on the grid, Alex was embroiled in a close fight with the BMWs once again but hopes of a top 10 challenge at least were halted on lap three when his Cruze was rammed on the run into turn eight. Resulting in a hefty impact and broken steering, the Cumbrian racer managed to limp back to the pits but his weekend was over.
“I went up the inside of a BMW at turn seven and we were side-by-side for the next corner but another BMW must have locked-up on the other side of me as the next thing I knew, I’d been hit and it bent the steering”, explained Alex, “It was far too optimistic, I’m not cross-eyed so I can’t see cars coming from two different directions at the same time!
“It’s disappointing as the car felt a lot better in the races then it did all weekend up to that point, we had new tyres as we didn’t get through to Q2 so that helped as well. The team found a better set-up though overnight after qualifying so, following the warm-up, I felt pretty confident.”
He added: “In the first race I decided to try and stay out of trouble as much as possible, a lot of cars went off, so I just wanted a sensible finish. In the second race I didn’t make the best of starts but I chipped away though and made up ground, to be taken out by a stupid move was very annoying.”
With no time to rest, the WTCC competitors now travel to the Hungaroring for the ninth and 10th rounds of the 2012 season next weekend, 5th/6th May. Although another track Alex has never raced at before, the fifth event of the championship in Hungary is probably the one he’s been looking forward to the most as he sees the venue as one more akin to the style of a British circuit
“It’s been a pretty hectic few weeks but I’m really looking forward to next weekend, I think Hungary will suit is”, said Alex, “Most of the tracks on the WTCC calendar are wide with big corners, they don’t apex like those on a UK circuit and that’s what I’m having to get used to. Hungaroring is more like a UK track in that respect so I’m hoping we can challenge right near the front.”
Following two free practice sessions on Saturday, 5th May, qualifying at the Hungaroring will get underway at 13.00 (UK time). After the usual warm-up session on Sunday, 6th May, round nine will take place at 10.20 (UK time) with round 10 following at 13.35 (UK time) – all of the action is set to be screened on the Eurosport television network.
2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd8):1st Yvan Muller, 148pts; 15th Alex MacDowall, 10pts
2012 FIA WTCC ‘Yokohama Independents Trophy’ Driver Standings (after Rd8):1st Pepe Oriola, 62pts; 7th Alex MacDowall, 19pts