After the curtailed season opener at Monza, the LADA Sport Lukoil Team head to Marrakech with renewed hope and ambition and with two LADA Granta race cars.
2013 marks the teams’ second appearance at the circuit, having been on the grid for the maiden appearance in 2009, with Kirill Ladygin taking a best finish of 11th in the LADA 110.
After the incident during qualifying at Monza, the team have called up young Russian Mikhail Kozlovskiy to partner double British Touring Car Champion James Thompson for the rest of the 2013 campaign.
Koslovskiy is looking forward to making his WTCC debut on the streets of Marrakech, around the 4.5km Circuit Moulay El Hassan which features two long straights, tight chicanes and a tight hairpin for the final corner.
“Of course I’m really looking forward to this weekend, as it’s my first time driving the LADA Granta in the WTCC,” explains the 23 year old from St Petersburg. “But it’s not all completely new to me, as I already drove a Granta in touring car races back home in Russia.
“There’s a lot to get used to with this particular specification of car though. It’s got a new engine and other systems that I have never worked with before, but I don’t think that this will cause me any problems: it’s just really exciting! I came to Marrakech several days before the race to study how exactly the car works and get used to the surroundings. On Friday afternoon, I finally get to drive it!
Despite never racing in the WTCC before, Kozlovskiy has experience of racing on street circuits before from his time in the Russian Touring Car Championship.
“By then, I will have hopefully understood a few basic things about the car,” adds Kozlovskiy, who finished seventh in the 2012 RTCC. “I’ve got some experience of driving on street circuits from the past, both in Russia and abroad, but Marrakech will be quite different I think. It’s definitely going to be the fastest of the street circuits I have experienced, thanks to all those long straights.
“Basically, from what I can see, the track is just a series of straights broken up by chicanes. So I’m feeling positive and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the Granta. It’s been nice to get to know all the team members, although actually I knew most people from before, so it’s a bit like coming home,” he concludes.
Thompson will be making his first appearance in Morocco, and he sees similarities between the Circuit Moulay El Hassan and Monza, where the British driver showed the potential of the Granta.
“Marrakech is a really interesting circuit that is quite different to anywhere else,” adds Thompson.
“The only place that it has a few things in common with is Monza, because of all the long straights. Marrakech is a very quick track where you need good top speed, good acceleration and a car that is very strong and stable under braking.
“Having said that, I’ve never actually driven on this particular circuit, so this is just what I’m guessing from looking at the track layout. I think the Granta should be competitive. We already showed that we had plenty of speed in Monza, where we were consistently quick in the first sector of the lap, which is the fastest part of the circuit. So I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to put in a strong performance this weekend.
“The compact size of the Granta should also make it quick through the corners: it’s quite a nimble car and very good fun to chuck around the chicanes. The only downside of having a small car is that you sometimes lose a bit of high-speed stability, but that’s hopefully where the driver makes the difference. So it’s hard to tell if globally we will lose or gain because of all that, but we’re hoping that it translates into a good overall lap time,” Thompson concluded.