Wellingborough [UK] – Thursday 30th April 2015: For RML, Marrakech 2015 was the first anniversary of the customer spec RML Cruze. Designed and built in just 18 weeks, a lot of progress has been made in that time. Not least over the past few months when RML has had the first chance to look at introducing new ideas from that original design.
Accordingly there were 3 different specification of car in Marrakech with Valente and Chilton using the new upgraded engine in addition to the winter aero upgrade, whilst D’Aste was running the ex Morbidelli car in original spec.
The teams are also learning more about set up from the brief winter test programmes and all cars performed very well. We seemed to have the edge on Lada and the upgraded engine took Chilton and Valente past the Hondas. In fact both cars made Q3 and both drivers felt a top 3 qualifying spot was potentially on the cards.
Of his qualifying performance, Hugo Valente commented, “I was too optimistic, I don’t know. I feel really stupid as I know that Chilton didn’t go out, and that Bennani’s time was four-tenths off my time from Q2, so I knew if I did a good lap I’d be P2.”
“We still wanted to prove that we had good performance. In Q2 what we wanted to do was be ninth or tenth, but when I was sixth the risk was too high of me ending up around 11th, so I went again and that time was good enough for second, so from that moment we thought we may as well try and get pole position.
“My time in Q2 was a 1:43.8, and I knew after Bennani had done his time I could probably be second, but we were in the pit-lane for quite a long time and the brakes cooled down a lot, so when I went on track I probably didn’t warm them up enough and I braked just a little too late at the first corner.”
“I’m happy after Argentina, we were quite fast there but I had a crash in free practice and it wasn’t possible to show it, so I’m glad we were able to show our potential in Q2. We’ve been struggling a lot with the set-up since yesterday, but we made some changes for qualifying and I’m really happy that it’s worked out.”
His races were also incident filled. After stalling at the start of race 1, Hugo fought with the Citroen’s and Chilton in the top 5 in race 2, only to be assaulted by Bennani on two separate occasions.
At ROAL, both Tom’s (Coronel and Chilton) showed good pace with the younger Tom also benefitting from the engine upgrade to get into the top 5 in qualifying and show good pace in both races, finishing 4 in race 2.
For Coronel, Marrakech was another nightmare after 2014. The fast and highly experienced Dutchman was a victim of poor driving in both races, being pushed out of 4th place in race 2 by Michelisz who was quick to come down to ROAL to apologise.
The damage meant Tom also missed the crucial Nordschleife test as the team focused on getting ready for this weekend’s round in Hungary.
For both John Filippi and Greg Demoustier, Marrakech offered the chance of more much needed mileage with John finishing an excellent 8th in race 2, although Greg was hampered by a long brake pedal in both races.
Stefano D’Aste has joined the ranks of RML Cruze drivers this year with the superb looking black and gold liveried Munnich Motorsport car. After years driving BMW in WTCC, D’Aste feels he has a very strong car and engine, although he knows the recent RML upgrades are a step forward. “The car is good and I am getting to grips with it quite quickly,” said D’Aste. “At the moment we are lacking some of the updates from RML, but I think in Hungary they will not be as important as in Marrakech, as the engine is a little less important.” Stefano was joined for the Nordschleife test by circuit specialist, Sabine Schmitz.
With the ongoing dev programme being phased into the heavy WTCC schedule the next weeks will be challenging. RML’s trackside personnel were in back at base for just a few days before the Nordschleife test on Tuesday. They then travelled straight to Hungary whilst RML’s customer support team has been very busy in turning round a hefty parts list from Marrakech.
Hungary 2014 Gianni Morbidelli stunned the paddock with the first victory for the Cruze, literally in the spec it came off the RML production line. The cars are much quicker now and who knows, history might repeat itself….