Alex MacDowall BlogBTCC

TCF Blog: Alex MacDowall – Looking Back To Donington And Forward To Brands Hatch

5 Mins read
Photo credit:

Hi everyone…

The BTCC has been a huge challenge for me this year and Donington was another. The weekend weather reports were looking like it was light rain on the Saturday and heavy rain showers on the Sunday. Saturday was mainly dry until qualifying, where it started to spit. I made the decision to switch the new tyres to the front so I could put a quick lap in before the track got too wet.

It was really tricky to judge how much grip there was. The rain eased 10 minutes into qualifying and it was back to the normal procedure. I was struggling to get close to my team-mate's times and it was really frustrating me – I started over driving and lost the rear end on one of my hot laps.

I ended up qualifying 10th but I was half a second off. It was my worst qualifying of the season so I was questioning the car before my own performance. The guys had a quick look over the car and the engine mechanic told me the engine lost a lot of oil and resulted in a loss of power. It was a relief to know because I was starting to wonder what I could have done better.

At the end of the day it rained heavy so, with the weather forecast looking wet for Sunday, I went out to walk the track with my dad and see where the puddles formed and discuss wet lines. At each corner we stopped and walked from one side to the other, sliding our feet. It sounds daft but you could feel how slippery it was on the dry racing line and your feet would grip better once you got off the racing line. When I got back to the garage they were changing the engine in my car. It's really impressive how quick they can change an engine. It normally takes 45 minutes with two mechanics fitting it.

Sunday was overcast but dry. The first race was a good result, I managed to fight my way up to eighth and then it all kicked off in front of me and there were cars everywhere at the chicane. I managed to avoid it all and finished the race in fourth. I had now jumped up to 10th in the championship by a single point so I knew I had to score more points to try and break free.

Races two and three didn't go to plan but I was happy with the weekend. I made a lot of overtaking moves which I have been working hard on in all of the races to prove I can mix it with the best and not just be a quick driver who can't race.

I was pushed out onto the grass in the last race of the day but I worked my way up the field and I lined up one of the Fords into Redgate and got alongside into the Craner Curves. I was on the outside and I managed to stay just in front but he touched my rear end slightly and spun me into the gravel. I watched it back on the TV when I got back home and it was not my fault, I gave lots of racing room but these things happen and I am more determined than ever to start racing with the best. Being quick is probably 40% of touring cars but 60% is racecraft and the ability to pass cars and move your way up the pack.

There was now just one corporate event left on the calendar. It was held at Bruntingthorpe on the Friday after Donington. The day consisted of giving passenger rides in the two-seater Cruze which is used specially for track days and passenger rides. The MD of Chevrolet was on the guest list so it was an important day. I took some of the Silverline and Tesco party around. Jason took Mark Terry around, the MD of Chevrolet UK.

I then got to take some of my mechanics around which was fun. The afternoon was set up for a Chevrolet driver's challenge. It was done in Top Gear style. There was a points board with five challenges on it and the driver with the highest points won. It was me against Jason and I knew he had done these types of challenges before so my game face was on.

The first challenge was a tyre change on Jason's Lacetti from last year. I failed miserably at it, ending up 30 seconds slower. The next Challenge was a race around the kart track in an electric powered bath tub with wheels. It had a steering wheel and you sat in it like you were having a bath and the throttle was on the steering wheel. I never thought I would end up racing Jason in a bath tub but I beat him easily, I think due to me being lighter. Maybe there is another career in bath tub racing, who knows!?!

It was now a round apiece. The next challenge was parking the team truck into a coned space. I was over confident and thought it would be easy but it wasn't. Jason parked it in one attempt. I took two goes and as it was timed, I took longer. The next challenge was a slalom course which was done in the Chevrolet Spark. I ended up quicker but I was penalised for jump starting. Jason was now getting a healthy lead so I was determined to win the next one.

The next challenge was off road driving. We had to go around an off-road track with a special off-road instructor. When we got to the end there were two telegraph poles on the ground the exact width of the car. This is where it would be won or lost. I went first and I managed to get half way which I thought was a good attempt. Jason was next and he did it on his first attempt but I didn't realise he had been around the course before from previous corporate days.

We were now onto the last challenge which consisted of navigation skills which would determine the winner. We had to wear a pair of goggles covered in tape so you couldn't see anything. The Chevrolet Cruze was the car used in this challenge and it was on the kart track which made little room for error. I had to direct Jason into cardboard cut-outs of various BTCC drivers and points were awarded for who hit the most and points deducted if you went on the grass. I managed to navigate Jason into three drivers and he went on the grass twice. It was my turn next in the driver's seat. Jason managed to hit as many as I did but I went on the grass once so Jason won the last round. Although Jason won the day, I was happy to have been invited to do the event and I hope there are more in the future.

It's not long now until Brands Hatch so I will be doing the normal procedure of going in the gym and trying not to get too stressed at work!


628 posts

About author
The Checkered Flag was set up in August 2009 and is dedicated to providing independent daily news and features from around the world of motorsport.
Related posts

Jelley seals Race Three win at Oulton Park in drama filled finale

3 Mins read
Stephen Jelley remained calm and collected amid a drama filled finale at Oulton Park sealing his fourth BTCC win.

Ingram seals commanding Oulton Park double, Jelley on reverse grid pole

3 Mins read
Tom Ingram has resumed his BTCC Drivers’ Championship charge with a dominant Oulton Park double, Stephen Jelley will be on Reverse Grid Pole for Race Three later today.

Ingram seals first ever Oulton Park win in dominant opener

4 Mins read
Tom Ingram finally broke his Oulton Park duck by sealing a dominant Race One triumph around the Cheshire circuit ahead of Ash Sutton and Gordon Shedden.