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LADA SPORT ROSNEFT will field a trio of LADA Vesta TC1s in Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) on the Circuit Moulay El Hassan in the vibrant Moroccan city of Marrakesh (17-19 April).

The forthcoming weekend will mark LADA SPORT’s 50th WTCC outing since the LADA 110 first hit the track in 2008, while it will be 45 years since the first road-going LADA rolled off the Togliatti production line on 19 April 1970.

There was a monumental effort from the Russian LADA SPORT squad to ready the new-for-2015 LADA Vesta TC1 for its competitive debut in Argentina, and productive pre-season tests left the team feeling hopeful that it would have a strong package in both qualifying and race trim.

A trying season-opener at Argentina’s Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo, where unnecessary contact resulted in retirements for British teammates Rob Huff and James Thompson, prevented the team from fulfilling its promise.

Nevertheless, the Russian manufacturer outfit took many positives from Argentina and it is now looking forward to the challenges posed by the Circuit Moulay El Hassan, having conducted tests in Portugal earlier this month to make up for a lack of pre-season running.

The 4.54mile Moroccan street track carves its way through the southern outskirts of the majestic and colourful city of Marrakesh and its simple layout is defined by long straights and challenging chicanes, while bumpy braking zones and the mandatory concrete walls are ready and waiting to punish the tiniest of mistakes.

Russian hotshot, Mikhail Kozlovskiy was sidelined for the WTCC’s Race of Argentina while his car was in build, but will make a welcome return to the grid in Morocco, where he will line up beside Huff and Thompson in a third bright yellow Vesta TC1.

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Kozlovskiy said: “I got my first taste of the Vesta at our technical base in Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours in France before our Portugal tests, and I can say that I am very satisfied with the car. It feels great, though there are some things I need to get used to, because the Vesta is different in terms of driving compared to the Granta.
“I am looking forward to the Moroccan race. Last year I finished fifth in the second race and, for the moment, this is my best result in the WTCC. Hopefully, with the Vesta I will improve my achievements.”

As always, Huff – “the ultimate street-fighter” and the WTCC’s most successful racer on inner-city circuits – is eager to return to the Northern African city, saying: “We learnt a lot about the car in Argentina and found a few things that we can put right and develop further, and the fact that we were P1 in free practice, shows the car has great pace. The car certainly feels fast, but we need to be careful this weekend, as a small error could see you in trouble, so we need to be careful and know when to attack and when the ease off in order to collect as much data as possible from all three cars.

Huff continued: “I have a good history with the circuit, having stood on the podium on a number of occasions, notably winning the first ever race in 2009. It’s going to be a warm weekend, not as warm as Argentina, but it will still be tough on both car and driver, so it’s going to be a tough weekend, but hopefully we can come away with some strong results.”

Thompson concluded: “Before Marrakesh round we had a testing program in Portugal. The very demanding nature of the International Algarve Circuit highlighted some areas of improvement, which is what testing is all about. We mainly tried to work on braking and traction, as the circuit in Marrakesh, is all about braking and traction. From my perspective, we made the car more driveable, so overall I’m pleased. Many more laps would have been nice but the LADA SPORT ROSNEFT team worked tirelessly and you can’t ask for more than that.”

 

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