LADA’s World Touring Car Championship drivers are expecting the extra 70 kg of compensation weight to challenge them in this weekend’s races on the high-speed Portuguese street circuit in Vila Real.
The Russian manufacturer was given 70 kg of compensation weight after their dominant performance in the previous event in Russia, meaning they head into this weekend’s races with more weight in the Vesta WTCC than ever before.
Hugo Valente believes that the extra weight will have a pronounced effect on both tyre wear and brakes – two very important things to have confidence in on a barrier-lined track.
“The Vila Real street circuit is great, but tough,” said Valente, who was the only one of the trio not to stand on the podium in Moscow. “It reminds me of Macau, minus the long straight, but it’s very fast, narrow and there are a lot of inclines.
“Feeling comfortable there is difficult, but that makes it exciting. I rate it highly and it would be up at the top with the Nürburgring Nordschleife for me.
“It’s particularly hard because of the temperatures, which typically exceed 30 degrees Celsius ambient and 50 degrees in the car. It’s tougher physically than mentally and there are no straight lines, so you’re always focusing and there’s never a chance to breathe!
“Tyre wear will be tough for us, as this will be the first time we’ve carried more than 40 kg of ballast. We don’t know what to expect, but I’m worried about the brakes too. Street circuits have no fresh air and, with 70 kg, that’s going to make it much harder.”
Although Nicky Catsburg was classified as a finisher in both races in Vila Real in 2015, the Dutch racer believes he has a score to settle at the track after his crash in race two last year brought the race to an early end.
“I need to leave more room for error on this track,” said the WTCC’s newest race winner Catsburg. “Last year I brushed the wall probably ten occasions and the last time ended in a massive crash. As a driver you always search for the limit, as I did last year at Vila Real. This year I’ll try to be a bit more careful.
“Each track has its own challenges and sometimes the most ‘easy’ looking circuits can be the most difficult. It’s hard to rate them all, but Vila Real is difficult because of changing track conditions throughout the sessions and the very small margin of error!
“You have some slow chicanes that are particularly hard on tyres, but it is a pleasure to race in Portugal for the climate and the enthusiastic fans.”
Gabriele Tarquini has always been a fan of narrow street circuits, and admits that overtaking is likely to be particularly challenging in this weekend’s races.
“I like inner-city circuits and Vila Real is a very exciting one, full of very fast corners,” added Tarquini. “I think it’s just after the Nürburgring Nordschleife in terms of difficulty and it’s also very hard, but not impossible to pass.
“No particular corner offers a safe opportunity for overtaking, but the last sector is maybe the best chance.”