Alain Menu admits the Chevrolet team will only know where it stands with the new Cruze model when the teams hit the track next weekend in Brazil for the start of the 2009 World Touring Car Championship season.
The Cruze, which replaces the Lacetti model for the new campaign, has undergone extensive testing during the winter in preparation for its race debut, with the team hopeful of taking the fight to BMW and SEAT in the race for the title.
However, Swiss ace Menu was quick to urge caution ahead of the debut race and admitted that the aim at Curitiba would be to pick up as many points as possible while still learning about the new car.
“I am happy that we will be in Curitiba soon, because as long as we are not in real race conditions and fighting against our opponents, we will be in a state of uncertainty,” he said. “It is hard at this stage to judge how good the new car is and what we can expect from this season, even though we have completed many test miles with our opponents. We will need the Curitiba and Puebla races to see where we stand exactly.
“Curitiba, for sure, won't be an easy weekend as during a race weekend, you do not have much time to react if you need to change something on a car which is brand new. So, the objective in Brazil will be to learn as much as we can about the new car and score as many points as possible.”
While most teams elected to send cars out to Brazil by sea, Chevrolet took the decision to fly its cars to the opening round of the season to allow for more test and development work, and project manager Mark Busfield said he was hopeful of reaping the benefits.
“To send them by plane rather than by boat was a strategic plan to give us more time ahead of the race debut and use it for development work and additional track testing,” he said. “The entire team has been extremely busy since Macau last year and has done a lot of good work in the closed season time. We must not forget we have been testing the new car in private since September 2008 and have a lot of information. We are happy with the final car specification that we ran at the Valencia test and subsequently homologated.
“What we hope for the first two races in Curitiba and Puebla is that we do things well and that we bring home six finishes and some good points. With the new regulations and no success ballast, this will be a season much more open and more closely-fought, where only stronger cars and drivers will emerge. We also have the added interest of the new Formula One style qualifying structure. This is a 20-minute session with the fastest ten cars then doing another ten minute session to decide the top ten times and the sought-after pole position.”