[A]ston Martin Racing Beechdean Motorsport driver Alex MacDowall raced superbly during the fifth round of the European Le Mans Series at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday, 25th September, to help the team battle to a top five LMGTE Class finish and, in doing so, keep its title aspirations alive.
The penultimate round of the season at the Belgian track was far from straightforward for the Carlisle racer and team-mates Darren Turner and Andrew Howard, an issue with the No.99 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE prior to the start leaving them a lap down before turning a wheel in anger.
Set to begin the four-hour contest from fifth on the grid in LMGTE, MacDowall took the opening stint but as the cars circulated on the formation lap warning lights on the dash alerted the Cumbrian to a problem with over-heating.
Pitting just ahead of the race start to get the issue resolved, as he departed the Beechdean pit box the red lights at the end of the pitlane came on due to the race action falling under Safety Car conditions inside the first couple of minutes. Costing the Aston Martin a lap on the rest of the pack, when he was finally able to join the race MacDowall produced some outstanding laps.
Beginning a monumental fightback to try and salvage as many points as possible from the contest in order to minimise any damage in the championship battle, MacDowall handed over the car to Howard at the first round of pit stops before Turner took stint three.
The race was interspersed with several yellow flag periods, and a lengthy 20-minute Safety Car period before the second half of the contest, and when MacDowall returned to the driving seat for the final portion of the race he eventually took the car to the chequered flag in a very hard-fought fifth position in LMGTE.
“Unfortunately the problem at the start on the grid cost us a lap on the others, so the race for the podium was over really at that point”, reflected MacDowall, “After that we had to do the best we could and I felt I was driving well in my stints, setting fastest laps and doing everything possible.
“We started fifth and finished fifth which, after the way things started, wasn’t bad and means we’re still in the fight going to Estoril for the LMGTE title. To be second in the championship in our first year is good going, it’s still all to play for though.”
Ending the weekend still maintaining second in the LMGTE championship, the trio have a cushion of 12 points over third place and will go into the season finale at Estoril in Portugal a month from now 20 points shy of the top of the standings.
Estoril in Portugal will host the final race of the European Le Mans Series on Sunday, 23rd October.
2016 European Le Mans Series LMGTE Driver Standings (after Rd5):
2nd Alex MacDowall/Darren Turner/Andrew Howard, 73pts
2016 European Le Mans Series LMGTE Team Standings (after Rd5):
2nd Aston Martin Racing Beechdean Motorsport, 73pts