Hugo Valente will take delivery of his new World Touring Car Championship TC1 Chevrolet Cruze from RML next week as the Frenchman gears up for the start of the season.
Valente was the first driver to place an order for the new RML-built car and will therefore be first to shake down the new car, which is expected to take place next week.
“I was lucky to finish the deal with Chevrolet quite early, because we signed the deal around Macau,” said Valente to TouringCars.Net. “I was the first driver to actually sign the deal with them. That gave me the chance to have the first car that they are going to build. Even though that’s going to be later than any other competitors like Honda and Citroën I’m going to have the first Chevrolet so that’s a big plus.”
With the season beginning in just over five weeks, Valente is planning to carry out testing first in Barcelona and then in Valencia, where Citroën, Honda and LADA will also be present from the 19th to 21st March.
“We’re doing the first shakedown next week, then we’re going to move on to Barcelona for some tests and then we go to Valencia for the first official test with Citroën and Honda. From the moment we get the car next week we’re going to try and do as much testing as we can.”
Valente also said that his plan had always been to progress and continue racing in the top class of the WTCC in 2014. The 21-year-old explained that his forays into the series in 2012, where he raced in China, and 2013, where he completed just over half a season, had been to learn the series and circuits.
“I was doing Formula Renault a few years ago and I did some tests in GP3,” explained Valente. “Then I stopped racing in 2011 and I missed it a lot so I started doing the SEAT Supercopa with SEAT in France – which gave me the opportunity to learn how to race with touring cars.
“Then I had the opportunity to do the WTCC race in Shanghai. From then on the aim was to compete in my first World Touring Car season doing the whole championship. We could have done this last year to be honest but it still costs a lot of money to do the whole championship and in our first year we decided to do only half the championship to gain experience.”
Despite RML being behind compared to Honda and especially Citroën, Valente is confident that the car will be on the pace due to the vast amount of experience and the winning credentials of the most successful team in the WTCC.
“Citroën have been testing for a long time and I’m sure they have an advantage, but you have to remember they started from zero,” said Valente. “With RML they already have the experience with the WTCC and how the Cruze works last year.
“I’m sure with the experience of RML they are building a strong car for the season. It’s still going to be the Cruze which has been winning the championship for years now so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be a fast car for next year.”
The WTCC season begins in Morocco on the 12th and 13th April and Valente admits that he will be happy to just get through the weekend without an incident due to all of the uncertainties regarding the car.
“I’ve never raced in Marrakech and a lot of drivers have been telling me it’s not a great place to start,” added Valente. “Even for the cars, with all the kerbs and everything, it’s going to be quite tricky.
“With the new regulations we don’t know if the car’s going to be strong enough because at Marrakech we have to go on the kerbs like crazy. Now with the new front splitter if we go as crazy on the kerbs as they did last year everything is going to break.
“We have to finish the race in Marrakech to gain experience, see how the cars work over a race distance and get to France for round two as prepared as possible.”