18 April 2014
Lada looks to accelerate development at Paul Ricard
The Lada Sport Lukoil team is hoping a lack of pre-season testing won't hamper its WTCC chances at Paul Ricard.
Just one week after the WTCC season-opener in Morocco, the Lada Sport Lukoil squad arrives in France for the second round facing a steep learning curve.
Unlike some of its rivals, the Russian squad's three new-for-2014 Granta Sport TC1s hit the Paul Ricard circuit for the first time this weekend, without the benefit of testing at the French track, which makes its WTCC debut in 2014.
At 3.8 km in length, the circuit is not the longest circuit on the calendar, but is among the fastest, with the infamous Mistral Straight and the ultra-challenging Signes corner ready to test both car and driver to the maximum The layout also includes a variety of different corners and opportunities for overtaking, ensuring the inaugural WTCC round will deliver a great battle for the new generation TC1 cars.
Despite its lack of preparation and the gremlins it endured in Morocco, the Lada Sport Lukoil team, fresh off of the back of a best-equalling top five finish in Marrakesh, feels modestly optimistic ahead of the second round.
A very short break between the first and the second rounds has left little time for any manoeuvres in terms of car development, but the Lada engineers are confident that they have rectified most of the teething issues that befell the Granta cars, which will be put to the test during the Friday and Saturday free practice sessions ahead of qualifying.
“With the new technical rules, the first rounds of the championship are very important for us,” team principal Victor Shapovalov said, “Since we didn't have pre-season tests together with other teams, we came to Morocco without a clear vision of the Granta's potential. On the one hand, the first two races showed a good pace of the car and we are happy with that but, on the other hand, there are many things to improve in the car, and the Moroccan round has highlighted the issues to be addressed.
“However, we were ready for the constant process of the car's 'on-site' improvement in race conditions. This was inevitable because pre-season mileage was very limited. Hopefully, we will be able to accelerate this process due to the team's experience of the previous season. Paul Ricard will be challenging for us, but we look forward to trying the new Grantas at this circuit and see its abilities here.”
It's not only the team that approaches Paul Ricard as former series champion Rob Huff is also unfamiliar with the venue.
“It's my first time here,” he confirmed, “but we were walking around the circuit with my engineer and already have first impressions of it. I think it's one of the most professional circuits we will go to, and one of the most amazing paddocks in terms of facilities. As the circuit goes, it looks like a fast-flowing circuit with some long straights and probably one of the fastest corners on the calendar at the end of the back straight. It's nice, because it's really flowing - one corner goes into another. I'm excited to try it and see how the car performs.”
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