Alex MacDowall brilliantly secured his third Yokohama Independents Trophy race victory of the FIA World Touring Car Championship season at Sonoma Raceway in the USA on Sunday, 8th September, with a cool and composed performance in round 17 of the campaign.
Confident in his pace at the Californian track from the outset of the weekend, the 22-year-old from Carlisle progressed through the first part of qualifying without difficulty and went on to deliver one of his best showings of the season in the all-important second period to secure fifth on the grid for the opening race, as well as the Independents pole, with a lap of 1m46.411 seconds (136.40 km/h).
Making a great launch from the rolling start at the beginning of the opening encounter, Alex held on to the class lead and steered his Chevrolet Cruze into fourth place overall with a neat piece of driving around the outside of the similar machine of Pepe Oriola at Turn Two.
Glued to the rear bumper of third placed Yvan Muller’s Chevrolet throughout the first couple of laps, which in turn held Alex up, as the race settled down the front-runners began to spread out. Although it meant the Briton’s chance of challenging for the outright podium slipped away, he pulled clear of team-mate James Nash in the battle for the Independents victory.
Driving beautifully as he edged further and further clear of the second Bamboo Engineering car, Alex eventually took the chequered flag on lap 13 more than two seconds clear to secure his first victory in the Independents Trophy since round six at the Slovakia Ring.
Confirming his pace, he also posted the fastest Independents lap with a time of 1m47.212 seconds (135.38 km/h), a mere 0.015 seconds shy of the best managed by outright race winner Tom Chilton in his ex-works Cruze.
“It’s brilliant to get that result”, said a delighted Alex, “I thought being on the outside for the first corner, with James [Nash] being on the inside for Turn Two, we were going to struggle but they all braked early so I nipped around the outside – kind of like an Alonso move – and pulled it off. It was pretty much straightforward after that.
“I didn’t want to take any big risks with [Yvan] Muller, it was good to follow him and see where he was quick and then it was a case of just doing qualifying style laps before backing off at the end. We knew over a race distance we’d be quick, it’s good to win again.”
With a great chance of adding to his tally of eight class podiums in round 18, lining-up sixth overall on the grid and third in the Independents Trophy, unfortunately Alex wasn’t able to get away from the standing start at all well after a warning light on the dash of his Cruze impacted his launch.
Ending the opening lap down in 15th position overall, Alex tenaciously battled his way back through into 13th place and sixth in class despite overtaking opportunities being severely limited. Importantly, he rounded out the weekend still third in the Independents title battle – 31 points shy of the lead.
“We have a flashing light that comes on in the car when you’re at the correct bite point for the clutch, a warning light came on at the start of race two so I thought it meant I was at the bite but the car just bogged down”, explained Alex, “It was a real disappointment but we showed good pace on the whole this weekend, hopefully we can be just as strong again at Suzuka.”
Rounds 19 and 20 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship season will take place at Suzuka in Japan just a fortnight from now, over the weekend 21st/22nd September.
Provisional 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship Driver Standings (after Rd18):11th Alex MacDowall, 86pts
Provisional 2013 FIA WTCC Yokohama Independents Trophy Driver Standings (after Rd18):3rd Alex MacDowall, 103pts