A POINTS scoring start to the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup was clinched by a Cumbrian driver on Sunday.

Carlisle driver Alex MacDowall started his season strong on Sunday April 18, finishing ninth place at Monza in Italy despite an incident packed three hour race.

MacDowall made his competitive debut with the Garage 59 squad’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 alongside new team-mates Valentin Hasse-Clot and Nicolai Kjaergaard, performed strongly as always but rued a few errors in race strategy. Taking the first stint of Sunday’s encounter from eighth in the Silver Cup, the driver kept his position early on but as rain started to fall 10 minutes into the contest a decision was made to change to treaded Pirelli tyres.

It paid dividends early but as the Number 69 Mercedes-AMG collided with the barriers shortly after, a Full Course Yellow period was declared, providing opposition a chance to gain significant time in their pit-stops, they were duly able to leap-frog the Garage 59 entry. Add in a few other incidents during the remainder of the race, not least Kjaergaard being spun round at the Parabolica after contact to the rear of the Aston Martin in hour two, the time lost meant ninth position was the best which could be achieved from the unpredictable first round.

McDowall said: “It was a messy start to the race really, then we had the rain. We came in too early to change to the wet tyres, we should’ve waited. When the Full Course Yellow happened, the other teams benefitted from that by pitting at that point so we lost out quite badly. I didn’t get a lot of running in my stint due to the time spent under Full Course Yellows.

“Things just didn’t really fall into place for us this weekend. We had to work hard on the car to get it to a reasonable pace, we had a lot of issues in testing which did put us on the back foot. The Aston suits a particular driving style, so it’s good to have Vale there as he raced the car last year. We have the right combination of drivers, things just didn’t go our way here at Monza. Making his first race appearance at the wheel of an Aston Martin since 2016, MacDowall had a lot to contend with in the opening hour of competition with the unscheduled early pit-stop for wet tyres and no fewer than three Full Course Yellow periods.”

At the time of the third race interruption, the Cumbrian held 11th place in Silver and duly pitted to hand over the car to Kjaergaard. Rain continued during the second hour of the race, although with less intensity, and the Danish driver was able to move up into an out-of-sequence sixth in class. His charge of course was impacted by a spin, and a loss of 20 seconds, after contact from a BMW.

Hasse-Clot got behind the wheel for the final hour of action and after yet another FCY period he held 11th position in Silver. Racing resumed with 40 minutes to go on a pretty much fully dry track and the Frenchman was able to move up into ninth in class before the chequered flag.