MACDOWALL ENDS IMPRESSIVE DEBUT SEASON JUST SHY OF COVETED TOP 10
Silverline Chevrolet driver Alex MacDowall concluded his maiden season in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship with an expectedly rapid showing at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit over the weekend, 9th/10th October -- ending the year just shy of the coveted top 10 in the overall standings.
Qualifying an impressive fourth on the grid for the first race, just behind title contenders Gordon Shedden, Matt Neal and pole-sitting Chevrolet team-mate Jason Plato, Carlisle-based Alex had an impressive run in round 28 to finish less than a couple of seconds away from the podium positions.
Slipping back to sixth after being run out wide around the outside at Paddock Hill Bend, having momentarily edged into third, Alex moved into fifth at the expense of Mat Jackson on lap eight when the latter went off at McLaren. On lap 13, he then steered his Chevrolet Cruze past James Nash at Druids Hairpin to move back into fourth where he remained to the chequered flag.
Ahead of round 29, Alex had moved a couple of points clear of Andrew Jordan into 10th place in the championship but his hopes of holding on to the position were dashed after being shunted off the track on the opening lap by Neal.
Making an outstanding start from the second row -- and with Shedden relinquishing third on the grid after being forced to pit at the end of the formation lap -- Alex moved ahead of Neal into second place at Paddock Hill Bend.
Slotting in behind Plato, everything looked well placed but Neal was desperate to get back ahead of Alex to keep his title hopes alive and lunged up the inside at Druids Hairpin, barging him wide and almost pitching the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) Rising Star into a spin. Recovering from his sideways moment well, Alex still lost a huge number of places and rejoined down in 17th position.
Following a short Safety Car period, necessary due to a stranded car at Clearways, racing resumed on lap five and Alex set about recovering as much lost ground as he could. An attempted pass on Lea Wood at Paddock Hill Bend led to unfortunate contact though and an eventual retirement in the pits with power steering failure.
Plato had a better time of it though with his 60th career victory which sparked celebrations for the whole RML-run Silverline Chevrolet squad as he was crowned BTCC Champion for the second time.
Starting the final race of the championship, round 30, from 20th on the grid Alex avoided trouble well and benefited from a good opening lap to climb into 13th place. Following a couple of Safety Car interventions, he ended the encounter in 11th position.
Although disappointed to miss out on 10th in the standings, which had looked a distinct possibility after the first of this weekend's races, Alex has thoroughly enjoyed his debut season in the UK's most popular and highest profile motor racing championship and has marked himself out as a very genuine touring car talent.
"It's been a fantastic year and an absolute privilege to race for Silverline Chevrolet alongside a great driver like Jason", commented Alex, "There have been some really good highlights, especially my pole positions and podiums, but we have had some bad luck too. Congratulations to Jason though.
"The team has been great, they've worked really hard all year and the Cruze is an incredible touring car. I've learned so much in my first season and although I'd have liked to have ended it in the top 10 in the championship, we gave it a great shot this weekend. I think I've shown I deserve to be in the BTCC so I hope we can be back next year."
It's certainly been a memorable year for Alex. Making history as the youngest ever pole position qualifier in BTCC history at Snetterton in August and breaking the qualifying lap record at Knockhill last month, he went on to record his season's best finish of second in the first Knockhill encounter and also posted the fastest race lap.
Added to that, he took his first podium at Brands Hatch's Grand Prix Circuit in May, secured three other top four results over the course of the year and also scored in almost two thirds of the races he contested.
Final 2010 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship driver standings: Champion: Jason Plato, 260pts; 11th Alex MacDowall, 83pts