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Apr 20, 2014 - 03:55 AM
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Reasons To Be Cheerful, As LADA Sport LUKOIL Fall Short In Qualifying
Posted by: newsla on Apr 20, 2014 - 03:50 AM
Sports Cars
Reasons To Be Cheerful, As LADA Sport LUKOIL Fall Short In Qualifying For In Le Castellet


LADA Sport LUKOIL will start Rounds 4 and 5 of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France from 11th, 12th, 13th on the grid after the forward momentum from a promising practice faltered in Saturday’s (19th April) official qualifying sessions.

 

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LADA drivers – Rob Huff, James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy – showed 13th, 14th and 15th on the timing screens at the end of qualifying until Citroën Total WTCC teammates Sebastien Loeb and Jose Maria Lopez had their times removed for failing the FIA’s obligatory automatic fuel cut-off test.

Under clear blue skies at the magnificent former F1 facility, the teething troubles that befell LADA Sport LUKOIL in Marrakesh seemed to have been ironed out, Huff, Thompson and Kozlovskiy all finding reliable bases on which to begin fettling setups and make the Granta Sport TC1 a more competitive package.

The signs were promising, with British former World Champion Huff posting a time of 1m32.0s to finish marginally ahead of his fellow countryman Thompson and young Russian hotshot Kozlovsky, while also closing the gap to the other works outfits.

Huff was hopeful ahead of qualifying that the car would have the pace to crack the all-important top 12 and make it through to the second phase of qualifying, believing progress made by the team’s expert engineers would translate into performance on the track.

“I’m happy with what we have achieved since Morocco,” said Huff. “The team is working well and we can start making changes that really make a difference, rather than addressing new-car issues, so things are looking good for the Granta Sport TC1 and LADA Sport LUKOIL for the remainder of the season. I expected to find a much larger gap to the Citroens than we had in Morocco, considering that this was the team’s primary testing venue where it developed its 2014 car. But, actually, we have maintained the gap, if not closed it a little.”

However, things didn’t quite go to plan as qualifying began, as Thompsons car ground to a halt at Turn 4 with what was subsequently found to be suspension problems.

Sidelined for the session, the team was soon dealt a double blow as Kozlovskiy’s abandoned a hot lap to return his Granta to the pits with a steering issue, spelling the end of the session for the young Russian.

This left Huff with the responsibility of propelling LADA Sport LUKOIL through to Q2 and it was one challenge he relished.

The 34-year old pushed his Granta WTCC challenger to the limits to post two consecutive hot laps within thousandths of a second of each other, but fell just short of his target in 13th place at the conclusion of Q1.

“That was the limit of our performance today” said Huff. “But I’m actually quite encouraged by what the LADA Sport LUKOIL team have achieved so far.”

Mikhail Kozlovskiy reflected on his promising, but unlucky Q1 session, saying: “During Friday’s test sessions, we had some problems with finding the right setup, but the engineers managed to find proper solutions and in FP1 on Saturday (19 April) the car was much faster. We’ve managed to improve by 1.5s since the first free practice session. Unfortunately, the steering problems in Q1 prevented me from progressing further. It’s quite disappointing, because I was on a good flying lap.”

Thompson was also left disappointed and said: “Today has been a struggle, although I notched up some good laps during the morning sessions. The main task for the team now is to take a step forwards and accelerate the pace of the car’s development.

The British driver also gave his impressions of Circuit Paul Ricard: “In terms of safety the track is fantastic – a lot of space, it’s quite open and very good from the working point of view. But honestly, I’m an old-school English driver and prefer different type of circuits that aren’t so open.”


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