Competitive End To BTCC Season For Chevrolet Ace MacDowall
Silverline Chevrolet driver Alex MacDowall enjoyed a competitive conclusion to his second season in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone on Sunday, 16th October, by chalking up a hat-trick of points finishes to end the year ninth in the title standings.
Scoring in each of the weekend’s three races for the fourth time this year, the Carlisle driver did a great job fighting with the might of the turbo-powered runners to post fifth place in round 28, ninth in round 29 and then fourth position in round 30 – just 0.3 seconds shy of the podium.
“It’s been a tough year, from the start it wasn’t the way we wanted it”, he said, “You want to come in and stamp your authority early on but we weren’t able to do that with the turbo situation. There are drivers up there that shouldn’t be, in turbos that are easy to drive quick on the straights – that’s not how it should be.
“It’s not been all bad, we had a few podiums and the Cruze is a fantastic car but we were up against it from the off. If I’ve learnt anything this year, I certainly know how to defend a bit more now! I don’t want to be doing that next year though, hopefully we can come in and be on it straight away.”
In qualifying, Alex starred with the fifth fastest time of 59.362 seconds (99.39mph) which was set in clear air without the benefit of a tow from another car, ordinarily something of great importance around the 1.64-mile National Circuit configuration.
Beginning the first race of the weekend as the best placed of the Chevrolet Cruzes, the 20-year-old wasn’t able to get away from the line as he wanted and dropped to seventh place initially before the Safety Car appeared at the start of lap two due to a multi-car incident further behind.
Running tight behind team-mate Jason Plato at the re-start on lap five, Alex had to be wary of trying any rash moves – with the 2010 champion still in with a chance of this year’s title at that point – but had to be equally mindful of the queue of cars building up.
On lap 10, bottled up behind Plato into Brooklands, the Cumbrian was mugged around the outside by one of the turbo Fords but no sooner had that happened than Plato slowed with a puncture so Alex was seventh once more. Again passed by a turbo Ford down the Wellington Straight on lap 14, he slipped to eighth but a drive-through penalty for Tom Chilton elevated Alex back into seventh.
Five laps from the finish, his dogged determination enabled the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Superstar to grab sixth off Andy Neate’s Ford and a puncture for Mat Jackson on lap 23 then lifted Alex into the top five. His fastest lap was just 0.2 seconds shy of the quickest of all.
Starting round 29 from fifth on the grid, Alex again suffered with an uncharacteristically sluggish getaway but worse was to follow during a very robust first lap – first he was put wide at Becketts costing several positions and then more contact at Brooklands and Luffield dropped him to 15th.
With a mountain to climb, and sporting a heavily dented right-hand door, the Chevrolet racer gradually made his way through the order into the top 10 with some impressive driving and took ninth just prior to a Safety Car period on lap 15. After the re-start on the 18th tour, Alex mounted a challenge on Tom Chilton for eighth and at the flag on lap 25 just 0.017 seconds separated them.
For the 30th and final round of the season, the top nine finishers of the previous race were ‘reversed’ to determine the grid – meaning Alex would be on pole position. Determined to make the most of the opportunity, his chances of fighting for a win were again thwarted by an issue getting the car off the line sufficiently.
Slipping to third, Alex fought hard for the podium but Tom Boardman’s turbo SEAT made its way past on lap two to drop him to fourth. Pressuring Boardman hard, there was no way through no matter how hard he tried and so Alex had to settle for fourth at the flag. Such was his pace though, he posted the third fastest lap just 0.2 seconds shy of the best of all.
“It was definitely a better weekend than Brands Hatch”, added Alex, “At least we had a car that stayed together for the whole weekend without any big problems. I did really struggle with the starts for some reason though, I didn’t practice them on the way to the grid as I was bothered about the strain it’d put on the driveshaft. I don’t think the clutch was great either so that didn’t help but to score in all three races was a good way to end the year.”
Final 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Standings:
CHAMPION: Matt Neal, 257pts; 9th Alex MacDowall, 100pts