LADA Sport Lukoil were left lamenting an “unlucky” qualifying session in Marrakech after James Thompson clipped a wall and Mikhail Kozlovskiy was caught up in traffic.
Experienced Brit Thompson once again had troubles during Q1, although this time they were his own making. Having set a time that would comfortably see him through to Q2, Thompson clipped a wall and damaged the front-left wheel of his car. The result was that he was unable to post a time in Q2, leaving him to start both of Sunday’s races from 11th on the grid.
“I was unlucky in qualifying one,” admitted Thompson. “On a dirty part of the track I hit the wall and damaged the car a bit. Unfortunately we couldn’t repair the car for qualifying two. Starting from the middle is not very comfortable, because on this track it’s hard to overtake. But I will try to use all the advantages of Granta to get a good result even from this position on the grid. What’s important is that the car was consistently in the top 10 during both practice sessions and qualifying one.”
Making his début this weekend as a replacement for Aleksei Dudukalo is Mikhail Kozlovskiy. On his first-ever appearance in the WTCC, the young Russian qualified in 22nd, 2.688 seconds off the pace. However he felt that he could have gone better, had he not been impeded.
“After practice and qualifying I feel more and more comfortable at the wheel of the car, it’s feeling better all the time,” said Kozlovskiy. “In qualifying one I was a little bit unlucky. On my first fast lap I was caught in traffic and there was no chance to overtake the cars running ahead. On my second fast lap the stewards showed a red flag after Monteiro’s crash. On the whole, everything is fine, I prefer not to take any risks but the idea is to be careful with the car and finish the race tomorrow.”
Team Principal Viktor Shapovalov is optimistic of strong results, but realises that the team are continuing to learn with each event. This weekend marks the LADA Granta’s first appearance on a street circuit.
“Street circuits are hard but interesting,” explained Shapovalov. “For both James and Mikhail it was their first experience on this track. The bad thing from qualifying is that James had no chance to participate in qualifying two. But we’re concentrating only on good things. And the good thing is that the speed of the car is great. It allowed us to be in the top 10 from the start. Of course, it will be hard to overtake tomorrow, but let’s see what opportunities the race will bring for our drivers. Mikhail is growing in confidence at the wheel of Granta but he needs time to get used to it. And this is the main target for him now; just step by step.”