Wellingborough [UK] – Wednesday 1st July 2015: Chevy’s turn on the heat on Cote D’Azur
Chilton makes Q3 with an improving Cruze
Cruze’s entertain with a photo finish in Race 2
Just a week after the undulating challenge of Slovakiaring, the Chevrolet RML Cruze teams and drivers pitched up in the South of France for another instalment of WTCC action. Tired engineers and mechanics regrouped around their drivers, hoping, as ever, for the best around the open and colourful sweeps of the Paul Ricard circuit.
Whilst qualifying took on a fairly familiar pattern, with Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente heading the Cruze pack challenging into Q3, mention should be made of Greg Demoustier who looked much racier than of late. Albeit on a track he knows well, the young Frenchman put in his most convincing performance of his debut WTCC season to date, running as high as 6th in FP2 and only just missing out on a top 10 quali place by 15/1000th of a second.
This time it was Chilton who made Q3 with a strong lap although once again the feeling was that Hugo in 6th should have joined him to break into the ranks of the four works Citroens on their home track. After Demoustier, Coronel, D’Aste and Filippi followed in 13, 15 and 18 positions respectively.
In race 1, Tom made a good start to stay ahead of the fast starting Honda’s and slot in behind the Citroen’s, a position he held to the finish. It was a great performance by Chilton as, after challenging Ma early on, was the only car to keep the Citroen’s in sight to the finish.
Behind, Hugo’s race was less straightforward. The Frenchman was dive bombed by Monteiro’s Honda before mid distance as he headed a train that included the plucky D’Aste as rear gunner after another strong opening few laps. Perhaps a bit ruffled, Hugo then caught the tyre barrier, damaging the front end of the car and ultimately causing him to come in for repairs ahead of race 2.
Unfortunately Demoustier had lost time after being rudely assaulted by Huff’s Lada on lap 2, Coronel was going well and had fought ahead of Rydell’s Honda only to be overtaken on the line (by 20/1000th of a second – you would think the amount of stickers on the front of the car would have helped…) and John Filippi dropped back with a high speed spin.
In race 2 both Valente and Chilton got bundled backwards at the start from 5th and 6th to 8th and 9th by the end of lap 1, only to encounter more issues later as Hugo lost a place, ironically avoiding the tyres this time (it was Loeb’s turn to hit and displace them) to finally finish 6th. Tom on the other hand was battling well with Muller before a hit lost him time.
The bright yellow Cruze of Coronel had moved through to 10th whilst yet another strong opening lap helped D’Aste ultimately tag onto the back of the mid field train. By lap 9, the train driver was Hugo, with Capsicum Tom ahead of DHL (and many others) Tom in an entertaining Cruzefest. The order finished the same but not after all had tried to cross the finish line three abreast in a photo finish (France 6th, UK 7th, Holland 8th). The Italian contingent had exited stage left when D’Aste’s left rear wheel parted company after the unfastened suspension bolt finally worked its way off the car.
Filippi had also driven well as he battled ahead of the rapid Demoustier from P18 on the grid
With just a day of preparation on Monday, ROAL, Campos and Craft Bamboo were back on track again yesterday for a much needed day of testing. With drivers and engineers being able to finally play around with set up after a range of RML upgrades, the Cruze looks to have made another step forward in performance. Time will tell if this translates to the challenging streets of Villa Real in two weeks