Just a week after WTCC season-opener in Morocco, the LADA Sport LUKOIL squad has arrived in France for the second WTCC round.
The Russian outfit will face a steep learning curve as its three new-for-2014 Granta Sport TC1s hit the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet, France for the first time this weekend; unlike some of its rivals, LADA Sport LUKOIL hasn’t benefited from testing on the French track, which makes its WTCC debut in 2014.
The Paul Ricard racetrack is located between Toulon and Marseille. Built in 1969 and completely renovated in 1999, the circuit hosted the F1 French GP fourteen times between 1971 and 1990 and the FIA Touring Car World Cup in 1995.
At 3.8 km in length, Paul Ricard is not the longest circuit on the FIA WTCC calendar, although it’s among the fastest with the infamous Mistral Straight and the ultra-challenging Signes corner 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.
A very short break between the first and the second rounds has left little time for any maneuvers in terms of car development. However, LADA Sport LUKOIL’s 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.
LADA Sport LUKOIL Team Principal, Victor Shapovalov, said: “With the new technical rules, the first rounds of the championship are very important for us. 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. 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.”
Rob Huff: “It’s my first time here. We were walking around the circuit with my engineer and already had 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”.
James Thompson:”The drivers always love fast circuits and these racetracks are always very special. Long straights would certainly give us a chance to assess the top-speed of new Granta, and how the aero works here. Paul Ricard must also check the new braking system of the car. Very interesting layout!”
Mikhail Kozlovskiy: “Even before you start walking around the racetrack, you can judge this circuit by very professional facilities – team’s garages, offices, technical infrastructure are really of a very high level! Regarding the circuit itself, I should say that there is one specific feature this track has – there are no gravel run-off areas here, only asphalt ones, but very wide. They give a chance to get back to the track almost without damages even if you run off. The circuit is smooth with long fast corners and there are some good places for overtaking, for example, before the first corner”.
LADA Sport LUKOIL