Alex MacDowall took his 2013 Yokohama Independents Trophy podium tally into double figures at Shanghai International Circuit in China today, Sunday, 3rd November, with second position in class during the first of the weekend’s FIA World Touring Car Championship races.
While the second encounter of the penultimate event of the season wasn’t as fruitful, the Carlisle racer still closed to within four points of the runner-up spot in the Independents Trophy ahead of the grand finale in Macau just a fortnight from now.
In the hunt for the Independents pole position in qualifying, he just missed out by a mere 0.020 seconds – securing the Chevrolet Cruze driver second in class on the grid for race one, fifth position overall. So closely contested was the all-important second part of qualifying, Alex was only 0.2 seconds away from the outright front row.
Round 21 on Sunday was declared a wet race following earlier rain and so officials chose to start the encounter behind the Safety Car. While some drivers opted for slick Yokohamas and others wets, Alex gambled with a mix of the two with treaded rubber on the rear and slicks on the front.
When racing proper began on lap three, Alex tried to challenge team-mate James Nash for fourth overall and the Independents lead at the chicane. Nash’s defence, though, meant Alex became a sitting duck for an attack from the Chevrolet of Rickard Rydell, who was on wet tyres all round, and on lap five the Cumbrian was nudged back to seventh by Rob Huff’s SEAT.
Quickly retaking sixth from Huff, Alex closed back in on Nash in fifth while Rydell, in fourth, began to struggle as his wet tyres started to go off on the drying track. Alex experienced a similar lack of grip at the rear-end of his Cruze but he kept everything pointing in the right direction and on lap eight he climbed back into fifth as Rydell slipped back.
Sandwiched between Nash and the Honda of Gabriele Tarquini into lap nine, Alex continued to search for a way past his Bamboo team-mate and although having to settle for second in the Independents Trophy at the finish he did grab fourth overall on the last lap as Pepe Oriola faded.
“Race one was really good, we went for the slick fronts and wet rears and I think our combination was the best”, reflected Alex, “It was hard to get past James [Nash], when it’s your team-mate in front you can’t really nudge them so I just had to stay focused and keep the car on track as I was under a lot of pressure as well. It was a bit nervous at the back as the race went on but it was OK.
“There just wasn’t a big enough gap between the cars on slicks all round and the mis-match which we ran – it’s always a lottery in conditions like that. We proved again we’ve got the pace, though, and I’m really happy with how the race went.”
Round 22 didn’t start as planned for Alex from the Independents pole position, sixth overall on the grid, as a sluggish getaway dropped him back down the order outside the overall top 10. That was then compounded when he had to cut across the grass on the inside at Turn One to avoid a tangle.
Emerging down in 14th position overall, sixth in class, he was elbowed back a further place before mounting a recovery and climbing into fifth in the Independents, 13th overall, as the race reached mid-distance.
On lap seven though, at the hairpin, more misfortune befell the Bamboo driver when a collision between Darryl O’Young and Fredy Barth delayed Alex. Even though his progress was impeded, he was able to continue and ended the encounter fifth in class and 13th in the outright classification.
Alex now remains in the Far East in preparation for the all-important final two races of the WTCC season, rounds 23 and 24, which will take place at the Circuito da Guia street track in Macau over the weekend 16th/17th November. Mathematically, he can still win the Independents Trophy title.