Round one of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup at Imola in Italy over the weekend, 2nd/3rd April, produced a challenging start to the 2022 season for Gold Cup competitor Alex MacDowall and Barwell Motorsport team-mates Sandy Mitchell and Rob Collard.
Following an unfortunate excursion for Collard in the No.77 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 during the second of three qualifying sessions on Sunday morning, Carlisle racer 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, 13th in the Gold Cup class, and with a long afternoon ahead, Collard took the opening stint of the three-hour encounter and made superb progress on the first lap. Scything through the order skillfully, he moved the Lamborghini into contention 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 duly 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 set about reeling off competitive lap times and tried to do all he could to mitigate for the rotten luck encountered thus far.
Breaking into the Gold top 10 around the halfway point of the race, MacDowall remained three laps down on his next target but when the Safety Car was deployed during the second half of his stint more progress was stymied. He went on to hand over the car to Mitchell before the end of hour two.
Racing finally resumed with 52 minutes to go and the Scotsman was ninth in Gold, where he stayed to the chequered flag – 40th position overall. While the result wasn’t what any of the team had hoped for or envisaged at the beginning of the weekend, their pace was proven with a fastest lap of 1m41.443 seconds which was quicker than the best managed by the Gold Cup class winner.
“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.”
He added: “We’re hoping for a better weekend at Paul Ricard but, generally, the Lambos are a bit off so we need a break with the BOP [Balance of Performance]. For a six-hour race you’ve got to have a competitive car, you need the pace to be there, so hopefully we’ll have that in France and be able to get our season back on track.”
Round two of the 2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup will take place on Sunday, 5th June, at Circuit Paul Ricard in France – the Paul Ricard 1,000km race.
2022 GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup – Gold Cup Standings
9th Alex MacDowall/Sandy Mitchell/Rob Collard, 2pts
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. Barwell Motorsport