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May 04, 2014 - 06:20 AM
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Lada Sport Lukoil Gets Closer, But Ends Qualifying Without Reward At Hungaroring
Posted by: newsla on May 04, 2014 - 06:12 AM
Sports Cars
Lada Sport Lukoil Gets Closer, But Ends Qualifying Without Reward At Hungaroring


LADA Sport LUKOIL could take a lot of positives away from a tense qualifying session for Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the Hungaroring near Budapest, Hungary (3 May).

 

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Throughout free practice on Saturday morning (3 May) and with a crescendo of horns blaring from the enthusiastic Hungarian crowd, it was clear that the Russian manufacturer had made moves to close the gap to the other TC1 challengers, Honda, Chevrolet and Citroen.

However, the Togliatti-based outfit knew that overtaking them and claiming a place in Qualifying 2 (Q2) for the 12 fastest cars would be a tall order.

LADA Sport LUKOIL’s latest addition, 2012 WTCC Champion Rob Huff, continued to lead the charge forwards, flirting with the top ten throughout free practice, with fellow Britain James Thompson close behind and battling to get on terms with the competition.

Russia’s Mikhail Kozlovskiy also improved, running closer to his more experienced teammates than at any point in the season thus far.

Qualifying was held in dry conditions and in front of a full grandstand. The flourishing LADA Sport LUKOIL team had planned for three timed runs, starting on used rubber and reserving fresh tyres for the final push to break into Q2.

After the first run, things were looking promising with Huff sitting ninth and Thompson 12th within one tenth of a second of one another.

The tension mounted during the second run because, while there were improvements from all three LADA drivers, their times were matched and bettered by the competition to place them in precarious positions on the cusp of breaking into the Q2 top-12 shootout.

As the cars were shod with new Yokohama tyres, Kozlovskiy was waylaid with an overheating engine and was forced to step out of the car early, leaving Huff and Thompson to launch a final assault.

With the chequered flag waving it looked like Huff had made the cut in 12th position, until a late glory run from the Chevrolet Cruze of Spain’s Hugo Valente scuppered the team’s hopes.

Thompson ended-up a fraction behind Huff in 14th, with Kozlovskiy qualifying 16th for the start of Sunday’s races (4 May). However, Dusan Borkovic was later excluded for failing a ride-height check, promoting Huff to 12th, Thompson to 13th and Kozlovskiy to 15th.

All three LADA Sport LUKOIL drivers had reasons to feel positive after such a close session, but it was hard to see past their disappointment at being denied the opportunity of taking part in Q2.

Thompson said: “We have to be realistic and acknowledge that we did the best job we could. This is the maximum we can extract from the car at the moment.”

Huff supported his teammate’s sentiments, saying: “My best lap was all the car has to offer at the moment. We have a great balance and mechanical grip and the engine power is good, but we have a way to go aerodynamically if we are to move the Granta Sport TC1 forward. I am hopeful that we can race well and apply pressure on the quicker cars as we have in the previous rounds."

Kozlovskiy concluded: "I am upset not to finish my third fast lap and 15th place is not the best position to start the race, but I always push hard. It's difficult to make any predictions, but it's likely to be wet race tomorrow and those conditions always mixes everything up. Anyway, we're going to have a spectacular battle for all the supportive Hingarian fans!"

Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship will be run over 14 laps of the Hungaroring and will be broadcast live on Eurosport at 13.30 and 14.40 local time (BST +1 hour).


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