LADA Sport LUKOIL expects uphill battle in WTCC's Race of Austria

Salzburgring is an ‘old-school’ circuit with a fast, flowing nature that pushes both man and machinery to the limit.

Located 15km east of the characterful and history-rich city of Salzburg – the birthplace of legendary composer and musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – the superfast Salzburgring is nestled among beautiful surroundings inside a narrow alpine gorge.

It’s regarded as an ‘old-school’ circuit with a fast, flowing nature that pushes both man and machinery to the limit.

This was perfectly demonstrated on the WTCC’s maiden visit to the track in 2012, when a combination of high temperatures and the circuit’s long straights destroyed Yokohama’s tyres, causing no fewer than 12 punctures and creating a surprise result in the weekend’s second race.

Aerodynamic efficiency is also essential, as the majority of the lap is spent in sixth gear, while qualifying is traditionally a slipstreaming contest with drivers incessantly searching for the perfect tow.

Meanwhile, LADA Sport LUKOIL continued with its intense in-season testing programme at the Slovakia Ring last week (13-15 May).

May is by far the toughest and most eventful month on the calendar, with three race meetings in three different countries and two extensive tests.

The ambitious Russian team commenced development work at the Hungaroring between the WTCC’s Hungarian and Slovakian rounds, before picking up from where it left off with three additional days of testing at the Slovakia Ring with its trio of drivers, Rob Huff, James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy.

Last weekend’s WTCC Race of Slovakia was a complete a washout and weather conditions remained unsettled, with heavy rain and strong winds lashing the Eastern European circuit and hampering the drivers’ testing schedule.

However, while conditions were less than suitable, the team reported positive results and feels satisfied with its “step-by-step” improvement process, as it attempts to bridge the gap to its rivals.

Former World Champion, Huff, said: “LADA Sport LUKOIL had a test programme to work through and we didn’t quite complete it, but we tried some potential new upgrades for the Granta TC1 that have yet to be signed off, the team is very much trying to extract the most from the car and those at the top are working hard to deliver new development parts. The car will be as it was in Slovakia for the WTCC’s Race of Austria and this is going to be perhaps the toughest circuits for us. Having said that, the rain is in the forecast and we are certainly capable of matching the Chevrolets and Hondas in wet conditions.”

Former double British Touring Car Champion, Thompson, said: “I only completed a handful of laps during the most recent test in Slovakia after suffering an engine failure. The team has a massive mountain to climb so rather than fine-tuning, we need to make huge changes to the aero package and weight of the LADA Granta TC1, which doesn’t happens overnight.

“The Salzburgring is an old-school circuit that’s quite individual, as it’s pretty much two long straights punctuated by an exceptionally high-speed sixth-gear corner and a few interesting changes of direction. The track is set in a beautiful area in the middle of nowhere so it’s always a pleasure to race there. However, you need a car that’s fast in a straight line because it’s all about top speed and stability under braking. I’m expecting this weekend to be quite a struggle for us, although the weather is quite unpredictable and could play into our hands.”

Kozlovskiy added: “I was happy to spend several days testing in Slovakia last week, because I wasn't able to complete many laps during the Slovakian races. Just before the test my engine was changed and worked without problems throughout the three days, so I was able to test my car at the Slovakia Ring efficiently and compensate for the lack of laps during the race weekends in Hungary and Slovakia.

"I really look forward to competing in Austria. Looking back to my debut WTCC season last year, I can say that the Salzburgring is a standout circuits for me. It's very fast and last year my pace was very good, so it inevitably made a very positive impression on me.”


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About this article
Series WTCC
Drivers James Thompson , Rob Huff , Mikhail Kozlovskiy
Article type Preview
Tags austria, james thompson, lada granta tc1, lada sport, mikhail kozlovskiy, rob huff, wtcc