Successful GT racer Alex MacDowall encountered his most frustrating outing of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup season at the Nurburgring in Germany on Sunday, 5th September, where grip and handling issues led to an eighth place finish in the Silver Cup.
MacDowall, who memorably won the class title last year, endured a difficult stint at the start of the three-hour race with contact to the No.159 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 only compounding problems with rear-tyre wear, a general lack of grip and, therefore, performance.
Fighting hard throughout the first 50 minutes of intense action, the Carlisle racer handed the car over to Garage 59 team-mate Nicolai Kjaergaard from ninth position in the Silver Cup for the second stint and Valentin Hasse-Clot then took the Aston Martin to the finish.
Qualifying on Sunday morning was a bit of a lottery across the three sessions with a number of drivers being baulked. Delivering an average time of 1m55.394 seconds from each driver’s best, the No.159 Aston Martin qualified second in the Silver Cup and 11th overall on the 43-car grid.
The tone of the race was set for MacDowall and the team from the outset when he was put wide on the opening lap, picking up a number of ‘marbles’ on the tyres from the dirty part of the track and almost immediately struggling with the level of grip offered.
Running just outside the overall top 10 through the first sequence of corners, after then being edged offline he slipped down to 18th place and sixth in the Silver Cup. Working hard to limit the damage, during the second half of his stint contact from a Mercedes-AMG only added to the difficulties.
Pitting towards the end of the first hour from ninth in Silver and 26th position overall, MacDowall handed over the Aston Martin to Kjaergaard – who was the quickest of the trio in qualifying – and when the race order settled he was 11th in Silver and 28th in the outright order.
At the end of hour two the Dane pitted from the class top 10 and when Hasse-Clot emerged on track for the concluding stint, he was 11th in Silver and in 27th position overall. Two separate Full Course Yellow periods interrupted the running during the last hour, and Hasse-Clot ultimately finished the race eighth in Silver and 19th overall.
“It was all a bit hectic on the first lap, I was pushed wide and picked up a lot of marbles and just didn’t have the pace in the car to stay where we’d started”, explained MacDowall, “The rear tyres started to go off very quickly and the car was sliding around a lot. Then, when the Mercedes hit me, it caused some damage to the rear of the car as well.
“The balance was really bad and it was just really hard work, so I was kind of relieved when we got to the pit-stop as it wasn’t enjoyable and I just had to hold on really. The car is good on new tyres in qualy, but on older tyres you get both understeer and oversteer – it just eats them up.”
All attention now turns to the season finale for the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup, which will take place over the weekend 9th/10th October at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain.
“There’s always stuff we can improve on, so hopefully we can make some positive steps before Barcelona”, added MacDowall, “The problems were magnified this weekend due to the Nurburgring being a low grip surface, but I’m still wanting the car to handle differently as well to try and get the most out of it. We’ve got nothing to lose now, so we might get our elbows out a bit more in Spain!”
GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup ‘Silver Cup’ Standings
13th Alex MacDowall/Valentin Hasse-Clot/Nicolai Kjaergaard, 30pts
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. SRO Motorsports Group