Rounds 7 and 8 of the 2016 FIA WTCC see the teams and drivers return to North Africa and the Moroccan city of Marrakech to the Circuit Moulay El Hassan but this time to a dramatically different layout, which will provide a new challenge very different to those of previous visits. The circuit has lost its characteristic long straights and hairpin layout in favor of a now permanent street style circuit with tight twists and turns between the concrete barriers.
The high speeds of previous years are no longer giving engine power an advantage, with balance and traction equally important.
What would have once been considered an exceptional event is now becoming no surprise as once again Nicky Catsburg propelled his Lada Vesta TC1 car into the top five shootout, the 3rd and exclusive part of the FIA WTCC Qualifying format.
Posting a final time of 1.22.1sec good enough for 5th on the grid and just 4 tenths of a second from pole position and adding more points to his Championship tally.
Another increasingly regular occurrence for the LADA SPORT ROSNEFT team is the Opening race front row start for Hugo Valente who will once again line his Vesta up on at the front of the grid in P2 for tomorrows (8th May) Opening race.
The team’s third driver Gabriele Tarquini completed the line up making it through to Q2 and qualifying P11 for both races in what was an incredibly tight session where the first 11 cars were covered by just 1 second.
The 2016 season’s innovation MAC 3 where the manufacturers compete in a time trial format continued at the Moulay El Hassan circuit in Marrakech.
Starting first, the LADA SPORT ROSNEFT trio avoided the dramas of the previous MAC 3 events and successfully lapped the new layout of the circuit to put down a benchmark for the Citroen and Honda teams to chase.
After the Honda Team failed in their efforts to beat the Russian team’s time, it was down to Citroen who demoted LADA SPORT into second.
Team Principle Victor Shapovalov on the team’s chances in the races said:
It is like a visit to the Casino, anything can happen when you roll the dice as the track will not allow for much overtaking but will deliver many mistakes and I think the races will have a lot of incidents.
Nicky Catsburg, the team’s leading qualifier also recognized the difficulties the new track poses:
Honestly it is going to be a lottery and really I haven’t enjoyed the track so much although I am very happy to make it into Q3 again. There is no real opportunity for the driver to make a difference on this track, all the corners are slow and with no fast stuff anywhere to test the skills of the driver. We have worked on getting a balance for the race as best we can but the track will be punishing on the cars, especially the brakes.
Tomorrow’s races take place at 12.15 and 17.15 local time and can be watched live on Eurosport or streamed live on WTCC premium TV via www.fiawtcc.com.