WTCC competitors who are racing the Chevrolet RML Cruze cars are very much looking forward to the four final events of the season.
Taking advantage from the long break between the latest race meeting in Argentina and the next one in China, RML has introduced some technical updates that are expected to improve the Cruze’s performance. Mark Way, RML Head of Design explains how.
Although the Cruze TC1 has been designed and built in a very short time, it proved to be competitive from the very beginning, emerging as Citroën’s closest competitor in the early part of the season. Did you expect such a quick success?
“We have a lot of respect for our competitors but we also know what it takes to make a Touring Car quick. Our design and development cycle was extremely short and there were areas we knew we could develop more with more time. The aero program is iterative for example and consequently its success is time bound. The car had very limited track testing time before the season, only enough to cure the initial teething problems really, but the speed potential of a car is designed in and then optimised at the track. The other interesting thing with such a big overhaul of the regulations is you lose your frame of reference, so we thought we had been successful with our design cycle, but had nothing to quantify it against. We had our own race before the season to design, manufacture and deliver six cars to customers in the time available (just 22 weeks!) so I would have to say we did not expect but were delighted with the out of the box speed of the car.”
As the season progressed, the Cruze was not improving in performance like the Honda and LADA cars. Was this because of lack of testing?
“Yes and development. We have three great customer teams but they have limited resources and budget and we are not a works backed program. We don't have a test car or development budget. Testing outside of a race weekend has been limited and therefore the optimisation phase of the program has been slow. Optimising a race car during and for a specific race weekend is one thing, developing a race car over a race weekend is another. Having said that, the RML Cruze is the only car other than Citroën to have qualified on pole and won a race so far this season which I think is an amazing testimony to the basic design and the determination of all the teams.”
What are the new technical developments that RML is now introducing in view of the Asian events?
“We have worked hard with our customers to try and bring value for money updates. One thing with having three different teams running is you know if they all have the same feedback then it’s actually happening! So we have reacted to drivers’ and engineers’ feedback in developing new suspension geometry and also reviewed some areas where we were time bound in the initial design phase such as the aero.”
Have you tested the new parts on the track?
“Campos did a great job in flying a car back during the Argentina/Beijing gap and we worked with them on a development program and testing of new parts at Barcelona. The parts have been driven by their drivers and they have also tested some new drivers, so we are pretty confident they are a step forward.”
What are your realistic expectations in terms of performance and results for the Asian race meetings?
“I do not expect the other manufacturers have spent all summer by the pool but the gains we have seen have translated on the stop watch. Due to the track configuration, I expect them to show at Shanghai more than Beijing.”
Have you already planned a further technical upgrading for the 2015 season?
“Yes, we have a good idea of other areas where we can find further gains. Of course we are not able to progress in the way RML would normally expect to and we respect the limitations within which our customer teams are operating. We are actively discussing 2015 options with our customer teams at the moment. Watch this space!”
It is not a secret for anyone that Rob Huff is a true and versatile racer.
The 2012 FIA WTCC Champion alternates FIA WTCC duties for the LADA Sport Lukoil team with appearances in GT endurance races and classic car races.
It is in this capacity that he starred at the Goodwood Revival last weekend competing with different legendary cars. After taking part in the St. Mary’s Trophy at the wheel of an Austin A95 Westminster, he entered the main race of the event, the one-hour RAC TT Celebration race, with a Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Coupe that he brought to fifth position together with team mate Richard Meins.
“The Goodwood Revival is always a highlight for me and I relish the opportunity to drive unusual and spectacular machinery from motorsport’s golden era,” said Huff. “This year’s Revival was no different and I had a tremendous time. The on-track battles with the likes of Mark Blundell, Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan were superb and I’d like to thank Richard Meins for letting me manhandle some beautiful historic racers. Just being involved in such a special and atmospheric event is an honour, and it was truly a pleasure.”
Another WTCC driver was present at the Ring this weekend, and for the same purposes: Hugo Valente.
The young Frenchman swopped the Chevrolet RML Cruze he drives in WTCC for a Peugeot CRZ Cup, shared with Clément Delporte and prepared by French team Anome, a regular competitor in the VLN series.
It was Valente’s very first time on the Nordschleife, and there was a bright spark in his eyes when giving his first impressions. “There is no track like this anywhere in the world! Here the pleasure of driving really takes all its meaning.”
Valente spent a couple of days discovering the track in a road car before getting at the wheel of the 250-bhp Peugeot. An engine failure shortened his driving time in practice, but he could perform five laps at racing speed and start learning the track.
“It’s difficult, fast and dangerous, exactly as it was described to me. It was useful to come and get a first feeling, although it will take more time to really come to grip with it and know exactly where to brake and shift gears. And, of course, you can feel a unique atmosphere. I am too young to have any personal recollection of the golden times of the Nordschleife, but you really feel you are in a special place. I can’t wait to drive a TC1 car here. One thing I can tell is that next year’s event is going to be great, ‘kolossal’ as they say here, and I am anxious to be part of it!”