LADA Sport drivers James Thompson, Rob Huff and Mikhail Kozlovskiy have welcomed the changes to the World Touring Car Championship’s sporting rules for the 2014 season, calling the end of rolling starts ‘more exciting’.
The new sporting regulations being introduced for the 2014 season mean both races will begin with a standing start, something which the LADA trio believe will lead to more exciting racing.
Former British Touring Car champion James Thompson is pleased to have made his last rolling start in the WTCC.
“To be honest I was never really a fan of rolling starts, for a couple of reasons – the close proximity to the car in front at the start means you can seldom see the lights change,” explained Thompson. “If you aren’t on the first row of the grid, you have to predict the start of the race from the cars around you. This has the added danger of bunching the field more closely as it arrives at the first corner, while a standing start adds another dimension to the race for a team and driver, placing more importance on a good start that prevents the opposition from stealing positions at the green light.”
Former WTCC champion Huff echoes Thompson’s views, and says that the changes will require a greater level of skill from the drivers at the start of a race.
“Traditionally, touring cars have always had standing starts and the rolling start idea was first coined to equalize the BMWs’ strength off the line,” added Huff. “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.”
There are also changes to the qualifying format for 2014. Both Q1 and Q2 will remain as they were in 2013, but an additional Q3 segment is added in which the top fived drivers will take to the track one-at-a-time to battle for pole position. Thompson in particular hopes that this will signal the end of tactical teamplay in qualifying.
“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,” said Thompson. “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.”
Young Russian Mikhail Kozlovskiy continues with the team for the forthcoming season, entering his second season in the WTCC. The 24 year-old highlights the fact that those progressing into Q3 will have to be more careful than ever in their tyre choices.
“The only thing that has to be kept in mind is the new tyre strategy,” explained Kozlovskiy, who is also pleased to see the compensation weight system remain. “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.
“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!”
LADA have yet to reveal their 2014 contender, with the season beginning on the 12th April in Morocco.