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May 24, 2014 - 03:08 PM
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Lada Sport Lukoil Reduces Gap To Rivals Ahead Of WTCC's Race Of Austria
Posted by: newsla on May 24, 2014 - 03:07 PM
Sports Cars
Lada Sport Lukoil Reduces Gap To Rivals Ahead Of WTCC's Race Of Austria


LADA Sport LUKOIL significantly reduced the deficit to its rivals in free practice and qualifying ahead of Rounds 9 and 10 of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) on Austria’s spectacular Salzburgring (24 May).

 

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Former World Champion Huff clocked up the most mileage of the LADA Sport LUKOIL trio in Saturday’s free practice sessions, completing 27 productive laps of the picturesque Salzburgring on a gloriously sunny morning.

Clearly reaping rewards from testing in Hungary and Slovakia, all three drivers – Huff, James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy – worked in unison to adapt their cars’ setups to the unique demands of the ultra-high speed Austrian circuit.

As a result, Huff went 13th fastest in FP1 with a time of 1m24.318s and a diminished gap of 1.547s to the pace-setting Citroens, while Thompson and Kozlovskiy were only a short way behind in 15th and 16th respectively.

It was much of the same in second practice, as all three drivers made positive changes and reported consistency in the balance of their LADA Granta Sport TC1s, although Kozlovskiy was frustrated when his car was struck by a throttle position sensor failure in FP1 and a battery fault in FP2.

Having been on the cusp of the top 12 for the duration of practice, LADA Sport LUKOIL went into qualifying hopeful of breaking into the Q2 top 12 shootout.

Qualifying at the Salzburgring is traditionally a slipstreaming contest and the LADA Sport LUKOIL teammates used free practice to hone their towing technique and pre-arranged a strategy with the view of boosting their lap times.

Thompson, Huff and Kozlovskiy emerged from the Salzburgring pit lane as one and ran in close quarters during an initial four-lap stint that saw all of them set their quickest times of the weekend.

Huff benefited the most from Thompson’s tow, immediately breaking into the 1m23s, although both sat inside the top 12 as the 20-minute Q1 session reached its mid-point, before a final flurry of on-track activity demoted them down the order.

A last-ditch effort to better their times resulted in Thompson improving and leapfrogging Huff for 13th place, although ‘Thommo’ and Kozlovskiy will be forced to start Round 9 from the back of the grid after receiving penalties for engine changes, promoting Huff back up to 13th.

Thompson said: “Mikhail (Kozlovskiy) and I went into qualifying knowing we would have to start tomorrow’s first race from the back of the grid, so we wanted to help Rob (Huff) as much as we could by giving him a tow on the long straights where it makes a massive difference. I think we did as much as we could today. There’s no doubt LADA Sport LUKOIL has taken some small steps in the right direction after the tests in Hungary and Slovakia and the gap to the Citroens has diminished; that’s why it’s so disappointing to miss out on Q2 and to be starting from the back of the grid tomorrow.”

Huff said: “I think we could have achieved a little bit more with a slightly different qualifying strategy but, ultimately, there’s no way we’re able to compete with the Citroens or the Chevrolets at the moment. The team is closer to the front of the grid here than it has been all season and I believe that’s pretty much all we had to offer today. It’s disappointing not to get through to the second part of qualifying on this occasion, but we’re working really well together as a team and the car is actually really nice to drive – it’s well-balanced and we have a good race setup for tomorrow. There’s just a lack of overall grip. We should be able to move forwards in the races and, you never know, there might be a five-car pile-up at the first corner, which will put me well into the points.”

Kozlovskiy said: “Qualifying wasn’t bad, but could have been a bit better, as I was too far away from James (Thompson) and Rob (Huff) to make the most of the tow. My third flying lap was my fastest and I know I could have gone faster in the first sector, having done so earlier. There were no mechanical problems with the car either after having a troubled time in free practice, which was a relief, because I didn’t want to have to walk through the forest again! We are making progress, but we need a larger step to catch the Citroens and Chevrolets.”

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