LADA are expecting the Slovakiaring circuit to suit their Vesta WTCC car, with Hugo Valente expecting a strong weekend at the Central European circuit.
Valente is heading into only his second meeting with the Russian manufacturer, yet the Frenchman is already setting his sights high off the back of two points-scoring races in the season opener.
“The 2015 WTCC Race of Slovakia was a great weekend for me, as I scored a lot of points and I wish to do the same this weekend,” said Valente. “Unfortunately, I have enough experience in racing to know that performing well at a specific track one year doesn’t necessarily mean you will the next, but I do like the Slovakia Ring, with its long and fast corners.
“Since the straights are very long and uphill, there is a lot of potential to lose time. Sector two is definitely where the gap will be at its biggest, because it’s the longest sector and includes many, many tricky, oversteer-inducing corners.
“I’m still learning about the LADA Vesta and adapting to a smoother driving style to suit the car’s characteristics. The Race of France went well and we scored very valuable points on a difficult weekend, but I believe the Slovakiaring will suit the Vesta and I’m looking forward to a strong weekend.”
Nicky Catsburg, in contrast, is keen to keep expectations in check for this weekend’s races, despite putting his car into Q3 last time out in France for the fourth time in his to-date short WTCC career.
“Last year’s WTCC Race of Slovakia was the first time I broke into Q3,” added Catsburg. “The pace was quite strong and I also enjoyed the Slovakiaring, but we were unfortunate to suffer some issues during the races.
“Based on what LADA SPORT could have achieved in 2015 and how far the team has come since then, I believe we can continue building and improve on the performances at Circuit Paul Ricard, so I’m really looking forward to it.
“I don’t want to set expectations too high, as we need to see where we are once to arrive in Slovakia. However, the Slovakiaring’s flowing, high-speed nature places less emphasis on traction and plays to the LADA Vesta’s strengths.
“I’ve been liaising with my engineer, looking over last year’s data and thinking about what could be done better since the opening round in France and we should take a step forward.”
Meanwhile, experienced racer Gabriele Tarquini is looking to rebound after a brace of non-finishes in the first two races of the season. The Italian explains that the Slovakiaring is one of the more exciting venues on the WTCC calendar.
“The Slovakiaring has some deceiving corners and Turn 2 is one of the fastest on the WTCC calendar, taken at 215kph,” explained Tarquini. “It’s very exciting because you have to place a lot of trust in yourself and the car, believing you can stay flat on the throttle!
“Braking for Turn 6 is very challenging because it’s easy to go too deep, but you typically get a lot of turn-in oversteer. It does provide overtaking opportunities during the races because you can take different lines, while Turn 9 is the place where tyre preservation comes to the fore, as you’re almost flat through the corner and forcing the front tyres can destroy the front-right.
“Approaching Turn 10 can be an overtaking opportunity. It’s the slowest corner and you need to short shift because it’s very difficult for front-wheel traction. After Turn 11 you pass third, you short shift in fourth, fifth before corner number 12. After that, you put it again in sixth gear and for the difficult final turn. Normally, you can brake very deeply. It’s exciting because you fight with the steering wheel in the middle of the corner and then you are flat out for the finish line.”