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Apr 21, 2014 - 04:02 PM
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LADA Sport LUKOIL On A High After Scoring Best-Ever WTCC Result In LA Castellet
Posted by: newsla on Apr 21, 2014 - 03:54 PM
Sports Cars
LADA Sport LUKOIL On A High After Scoring Best-Ever WTCC Result In LA Castellet


LADA Sport LUKOIL is buzzing as it leaves Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France after the new Granta TC1’s strongest showing yet, where Rob Huff delivered a sensational fifth place result in race one before another solid showing for all three cars in the second FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) encounter.

 

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Little was expected from the Granta after qualifying, with the team languishing in the midfield and lacking outright pace.

However, the team pulled out all the stops to drag two cars up into the top ten for the first time, Huff delivering a very credable fifth place on merit and demonstrating, not only his prowess, but the potential of the flourishing LADA Sport LUKOIL team.

Race one was a touring car masterclass in all aspects by the 2012 FIA WTCC Champion, as he took control from the start in damp conditions to launch his Granta from tenth on the grid to sixth after the first few corners.

The Briton out-dragged his nearest rivals and quite literally went wheel-to-wheel with Honda’s Tiago Monteiro and the pit wall, before latching himself to the rear of Hugo Valente’s Chevrolet Cruze.

The penalised Citroens of Sebastien Loeb and José María Lopez were quickly on terms with Huff, having surged from the back of the grid. But the former Champion defended valiantly, briefly dropping back to sixth, dispatching Valente’s Chevrolet with ease for fifth position and standing firm against the hard-charging Loeb.

Meanwhile, Thompson in the second Granta made steady progress to tenth, easily passing the Chevrolet of Rene Munnich while his LADA Sport LUKOIL teammate, Mikhail Koslovskiy, in the third Granta battled with damaged steering after some over-exuberant wheel-banging away from the start.

After the race, Huff duly took the plaudits from fans and rivals alike, who recognised the scale of what both team and driver had achieved.

Rob Huff: “That feels like a win for me! “I raced the wheels off the car from the start and I think we showed that LADASport LUKOIL can compete, which is a great reward for the team’s efforts so far.”

Race two started on an almost bone-dry track, following the day’s earlier rain and all three LADA Granta Sport TC1s opted for slick Yokohama rubber.

The start was frenetic, with 11th-placed Huff switching to the outside to outmaneuver Valente and the Honda of Norbert Michelisz for ninth position, his teammates Thompson and Kozlovskiy holding station behind.

At the end of lap one, the two Citroens of Loeb and Lopez had already made up the ground lost as a result of their grid penalty, passing Kozlovskiy and Thompson with Huff in their sights.

A battle broke out and Huff lost track position when the Citroen pairing, Valente and Michelisz muscled their way through and, as the race developed, the striking red-liveried LADA Sport LUKOIL machines ran as per the starting positions.

That is until the Safety Car intervened on lap seven with debris positioned dangerously on the track, which caused Huff to lose a rear wheel-arch.

The restart was initially clean, although TC2 cars tangled to cause a second Safety Car deployment.

A four-lap sprint was unleashed on lap 14 and Huff’s Granta was looking racey.

The British ace applied unrelenting pressure on Valente’s Chevrolet, while an off-track excursion for Munnich opened the door to Huff.

At the flag, after a lot of jostling and position changing, the trio of LADA Granta TC1s completed a satisfactory weekend in 11th, 13th and 14th positions.

James Thompson: “I did the best I could in both races, but the car was better in the first. I’m very pleased that Rob (Huff) had such a fantastic race today; it’s good for the team. While the season has only just begun, the team has already achieved a fifth place for Mikhail (Kozlovskiy) in Morocco and now another identical result here in France. We are working hard on improving the pace of the new car and I hope my Granta will be much faster next time out in Budapest.”

Mikhail Kozlovkiy: “I really hoped for much better positions in the races, but I made contact with one of the rivals at the start. That caused a serious disruption to the car’s body geometry, so the pace and the drivability of my Granta was not as good as I wanted it to be after that. However, I am quite satisfied with my tempo, relative to my teammates Rob and James.”

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