Tom Chilton plays down pace of Arena Ford after going second in WTCC test at Marrakech
|By Peter Mills||Friday, April 13th 2012, 16:43 GMT|
Tom Chilton was quick to play down his prospects of a strong World Touring Car Championship result at Marrakech, despite going second fastest in Friday testing at the Moroccan street circuit.
The Arena Motorsport driver was beaten only by Chevrolet driver Rob Huff during the 30-minute session, but said his pace was not an indication of a major step forward for the new-for-2012 Ford Focus S2000 TC.
"If I was second fastest, it was because I am good at learning this circuit," said Chilton. "I know some of these guys have been here before, but it's not the same circuit [configuration]. It is my first time here, but I have been in a simulator."
Chilton said that he had nearly been caught out by changes made to the circuit since the WTCC last visited Morocco in 2010.
"They have changed one of the chicanes for this year, and that confused me on my first couple of laps," he added. "I nearly killed myself! I was expecting to roll in [to the corner] in third gear, but it was second and I had to brake all the way from apex to exit. If I'm honest, I still think the car is good enough for me to be around 12th fastest. I nearly hit the wall three times; I was pushing to see what we could do."
Arena has denied asking for permission from the FIA to cut the Ford's 30kg weight penalty in half for the Marrakech weekend. The Focuses of Chilton and James Nash have carried 30kg of ballast during the season and will be required to do so until modifications to a disputed suspension design are carried out. The car is, however, 20kg lighter than at Valencia due to the compensation weight rules coming into force.
"We never made a request to the FIA to have some or any of the 30kg taken off for Marrakech," said Arena team manager Alan Cole, responding to media reports to the contrary. "We know why we have the weight on. The FIA always said the weight would stay on our car until after this event, when our suspension will be changed. The weight will come off then - if we can find the full 30kg to take off. That's the next issue."
Cole said that a request was submitted to the FIA to have plastic rear and side windows fitted - but was turned down. The weight-saving windows are currently used on the SUNRED SEAT Leons and the competing BMWs.
"The FIA told us we couldn't have the plastic windows until the rest of the car is where they want it to be," added Cole. "There is about 8kg to be saved. We have already made the windows, and we brought them with us here. When we make the suspension changes for [the next round in] Slovakia my understanding is we might be allowed to run them."
The difference of interpretation over the suspension relates to the positioning of where the suspension is fitted on the car.
"We read the rules you that you could fit the suspension in a certain sphere, which is what other teams have done in the past. This new regime has said 'No you can't do that'. We have the first car built under this tighter regime, they don't want to go down the route of other championships where you take the rules and throw them in the bin and say 'Yes, no, yes, no'. It's a case of 'These are the rules, obey the rules'."
Following this weekend's meeting in Africa, one of Arena's two transporters will return to the UK for the outstanding suspension work to be completed, while the team's second truck will head directly to the venue of the fourth round of the championship in Slovakia.