Carlisle racer Alex MacDowall had a challenging start to the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup in Italy.

He finished ninth in the early Gold Cup standings after a testing weekend in Imola.

It was the 2022 season opener for MacDowall and Barwell Motorsport team-mates Sandy Mitchell and Rob Collard.

After a unfortunate excursion for Collard in the No77 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 during the second of three qualifying sessions on Sunday morning, MacDowall was unable to contest the decisive third session as planned and so the trio began the race from last on the grid.

Lining-up in 52nd position overall and 13th in the Gold Cup class, and with a long afternoon ahead, Collard made good progress by climbing into the top six of Gold and 37th place overall.

Due to an incident at the last corner at the end of lap one, the safety car was deployed with the action then resuming around 12 minutes into the race. Collard maintained his sixth place in class but, just after the half-hour mark, he was edged off the circuit and became beached in the gravel.

When the car was eventually recovered and returned to the pits, the Barwell mechanics made the required checks to ensure there was no damage before MacDowall headed out onto track with 55 minutes elapsed. 

Running five laps down in class and nine laps down on the overall leaders, holding 11th position in Gold and last overall, the Cumbrian did his best to compile competitive lap times after the team’s earlier misfortunes.

His progress was again dashed when the safety car was again deployed during the second half of his stint.

Mitchell then saw the car through to ninth in Gold and 40th overall.

“It’s been a tough weekend”, said MacDowall.

“I obviously didn’t get to set a time in quali, due to the problems in Q2, but we showed in the race we had the pace to do a good job.

“Rob put in a really great stint at the start, passing 14 or 15 cars, but he got nudged off the circuit into the gravel and that was the icing on the cake for the weekend going wrong for us really.

“After the team checked the car over when it got to the pits, checking the brakes and making sure everything was OK and undamaged, we were five laps down in class when I joined the race so all we could do was drive around as quickly as we could and hope to take some points – which we did.”

MacDowall and his team will contest round two on Sunday, June 5 at Circuit Paul Ricard in France.