LADA Sport LUKOIL drivers James Thompson, Rob Huff and Mikhail Kozlovskiy share their opinions on the new rules.
The Russian LADA Sport LUKOIL team faces its second full season in the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) with the LADA Granta Sport in 2014, with both the outfit and its three drivers getting their first taste of the sport’s radically-revised technical and sporting regulations.
Some of the most notable changes in the WTCC’s sporting regulations will affect starting procedures and qualifying, as the championship organisers have done away with rolling starts and added a third qualifying leg that will determine the top-five grid positions.
LADA Sport LUKOIL drivers James Thompson, Rob Huff and Mikhail Kozlovskiy share their opinions on the new rules:
“The changes to qualifying are a positive step, as I believe qualification has been spoilt by the fact that the best lap times for most of the midfield runners were often achieved by slipstreaming other cars and following them for the duration of a lap. This is tricky if you are a one-car team. Those with five cars have been able to dominate qualifying in the past due to organised slipstreaming strategies. While I’m sure that will still play a part in the early stages of qualifying, I’ll be delighted to see everybody running alone at various intervals during the ‘top-five shootout’ in Q3 to give a true reflection of drivers’ relative performances. The added advantage is that Eurosport TV will be able to focus in on each driver as they complete flying laps. I know this hasn’t been easy from my commentary days!”
Rob Huff: “Traditionally, touring cars have always had standing starts and the rolling start idea was first coined to equalize the BMWs’ strength off the line. However, that advantage has now gone. Standing starts are much more exciting because they’re harder to do. It’s quite difficult getting touring cars off the line without wheelspin, so it puts more emphasis on the driver to do the job well and maintain or gain positions on the opening lap. I think it’s a step in the right direction from a spectator’s point of view too.
“Regarding qualifying, I think Q3 will really add to the spectacle. There will only be five cars on the track in Q3 and there will be something going on the entire time. Again, it puts even more emphasis on the driver and doing one-lap shootouts – a ‘super pole’ – will add to the excitement and adventure of the new WTCC era.”
Mikhail Kozlovskiy: “From the driver’s viewpoint, the rolling start is easier and I think we can expect more interesting situations away from standing starts and during the opening laps of races next season.
“Regarding the third qualifying leg, I don’t think it will be a serious change for drivers, because the driver pushes hard in each session. The only thing that has to be kept in mind is the new tyre strategy. The drivers hitting the top-five and passing through to Q3 will have to keep a new set of tyres, so there won’t be room for mistakes in Q1 and Q2. Speaking about other sporting regulations, it’s good that the weight compensation system will remain. Due to the new technical rules, the balance of power in the championship can change in an unpredictable way. But thanks to this system, the motorsport fans will always have a chance to enjoy tough and spectacular competition. This is what the WTCC is loved for, after all!”