MacDowall takes bamboo’s first independents win of the season
THE bamboo engineering team have celebrated their first Yokohama Independents Trophy win of the season in the Austrian sunshine.
Alex MacDowall brought his Chevrolet Cruze home in sixth spot overall and first independent in today’s opening race at the Salzburgring, while team-mate Pasquale Di Sabatino crossed the line 12th and fifth independent.
But things took a turn for the worse in Race Two as both drivers suffered left-front punctures, the same fate which befell the three factory Chevrolets and a number of other front-wheel drive cars. However the team remains upbeat after their solid performance throughout the weekend, which saw both cars consistently running in the top 10.
In FP1 MacDowall ended the session fifth with Di Sabatino eighth, and in FP2 Di Sabatino finished an impressive fourth with MacDowall close behind in sixth.
And their good form continued into qualifying, with MacDowall edging out all of his independent rivals to qualify fifth on the grid. Di Sabatino – who had been running in the top 12 for most of the session – was caught out by a red flag while he was on his fast lap and had to settle for 16th spot.
At the green light both drivers got decent starts, MacDowall dropping just one spot to sixth. He had a solid race, holding his position all the way to the chequered flag to finish first independent, giving him his first podium in his rookie season.
Di Sabatino meanwhile got caught out at the rolling start and was handed a drive-through penalty. Rejoining at the back he found a good pace and began to make his way back up the order to finish 12th.
Race Two was to prove more dramatic for both drivers. MacDowall started from sixth place but was forced wide in the first corner and forced to take evasive action, dropping him right back to the back of the pack.
Pasquale started from 15th, and held his place through the opening laps before starting to make up some places from Lap Four. By now Alex was also on a charge and was up to 16th behind Pasquale in 12th as they started Lap Eight.
By now a couple of cars had suffered what appeared to be left-front punctures, and the next big off came from Alain Menu who spun into the gravel with the same issue. Moments later Alex suffered the exact same problem in the exact same corner, and found himself flying into the gravel, lucky to miss Menu’s stricken Chevrolet.
Two laps later and it was Pasquale’s turn for the puncture, but he was able to coast his car back to the pits. The team changed the wheel and he was able to get back out and finish the race in 15th place.
For MacDowall it was tough end to what had been a great day. “Getting my first independent win was fantastic. The car has been brilliant all weekend and we knew we had a great package here today.
“The puncture was one of those things, and one of those things which seemed to affect half of the grid today. It wasn’t the way I wanted to end this weekend but we have to happy with the win earlier. Now we know what this car is capable of we’re all just hungry for more.
Di Sabatino was also happy with his pace. “It has been a very good weekend because I’ve certainly made some very big steps,” he said. “The car has felt perfect and I was able to go faster and faster each lap.
“Obviously I was disappointed not to get a higher qualifying position but these things happen and I have to take away the positives, which are my pace was fast and my race pace equally good. It means I look forward to the next race.”
Team Principal Richard Coleman praised both drivers’ performance, but admitted he was disappointed about the tyre situation.
“It’s fantastic that we got the win. Alex drove a great race and he has been strong all weekend. It’s a good boost to everyone in the team to see their hard work and effort rewarded.
“And I’ve been very impressed with Pasquale all weekend. Apart from qualifying he was up there in every session. Had he not missed out on getting his fast lap in at the end because of the chequered flag I’m sure he’d have been up there with Alex.
“However we do need to think about these punctures. There were nine front-wheel drive cars out there that suffered exactly the same thing and I have to admit I was massively surprised at what went on there.
“We took every precaution we could. We tested one of our tyres on Saturday and we were happy with the findings so we were just all shocked about what happened. Thankfully Alex is okay and we can move on knowing we have the pace to run at the front.”