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López unimpressed with circuit going into Saturday

37 LOPEZ Jose Maria (arg) Citroen C Elysee team Citroen TOTAL WTCC action during the 2016 FIA WTCC World Touring Car Race of Morocco at Marrakech, from May 6 to 8  2016 - Photo Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI.The new layout of the Circuit Moulay El Assan received split opinion amongst the drivers in the post-Test Session Press Conference.

Honda’s Rob Huff, pace setter in the thirty-minute test session, was impressed describing the circuit as “reminiscent of Macau” but unpredictable upon turn in given the multitude of surfaces, “you’re not quite sure if you’ve given enough margin for error or not.”

Citroën’s José María López, was less agreeable to the substantial changes made to the circuit describing it as “Too slow”. López reflected Huff’s observation of the impact several track surfaces noting also that they “change the behaviour of the car quickly…[because] you don’t sometimes know if you are carrying too much speed or not”.

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The championship leader noted also that while Honda appeared to have jumped Citroën that “We still have to optimise the car [also] it’s FP0 and we still have a long way to go”

LADA’s Hugo Valente and Citroën’s Mehdi Bennani, eighth and tenth respectively in the morning’s session, followed Huff’s positive outlook. Valente admitted that, “Everyone was a bit pessimistic walking the track…imagining in their heads that it’s going to be too tight. But it turns out to be okay to be honest” showing the changing opinions in the paddock.

As regards the slower than expected lap times, around two seconds adrift, Bennani reflected that “we are still learning and being a bit safe [because] it’s more challenging even than the old circuit layout”.

Valente added that in addition to the growing confidence of the drivers that another factor was track development itself, “it’s very tricky under braking because it’s very dirty right now”.  Volvo’s Thed Björk’s impressions were not too dissimilar from his colleagues, a rookie to the series he said the circuit was “a big learning curve” not just for him but for his Polestar Cyan Racing Team.

However, while Huff is not a critic of the circuit redesign, when asked if he would do anything to change it he replied with “Make it wet!” implying directly that overtaking would be limited during the race. In addition to this there was a sense of opportunities lost by the redesign, “We can always do with a nice long straight in touring cars so we can guarantee some overtaking opportunities, which is always the difficult thing on street circuits”.

This follows predictions made by several drivers before the weekend, including López, that due to the short straights on the new layout that neither fifth nor sixth gear would need to be engaged.

Nevertheless, the short circuit will mean that qualifying should be close between the top teams with Honda and Citroën fighting for top honours when the lights go out on Saturday Afternoon.

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