LADA PRIORA CLAIMS DOUBLE POINTS FINISH AT IMOLA ! Just two weeks after the Lada Sport team qualified fourth at Oschersleben, the Priora squad has confirmed its progress by claiming two top-six finishes at Imola! The Italian venue, well known...
LADA PRIORA CLAIMS DOUBLE POINTS FINISH AT IMOLA !
Just two weeks after the Lada Sport team qualified fourth at Oschersleben, the Priora squad has confirmed its progress by claiming two top-six finishes at Imola!
The Italian venue, well known for being the home of the San Marino Grand Prix, marked the 10th round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship season, which Lada is contesting for the first time this year as a registered manufacturer.
Despite this relative lack of experience and severely limited testing, the Lada Priora finished a spectacular sixth in both races at Imola thanks to two-time British Touring Car Champion James Thompson (n.36). Alongside Thompson, two more examples of the new Priora were entered as usual for Dutchman Jaap van Lagen (n.18) and Russian driver Kirill Ladygin (n.19). Thompson and van Lagen's cars benefitted from a new flat floor at Imola, designed to improve the top speed.
"It's been a great weekend for Lada on a circuit that I love, and this pair of results definitely shows that we are making progress," said Thompson, who won a race at Imola last year. "Through our careful hard work the car seems to be getting better and better. We've got to be realistic as there is still plenty to do, but this is certainly a sign that we are heading in the right direction."
The Imola circuit near Bologna, which has been extensively redesigned in recent years, contains a wide variety of speeds and corners to test every aspect of a car's performance. The weekend started off well enough for Lada when Thompson qualified his car in a solid 15th place for race one. Van Lagen was 22nd after struggling with locking brakes while Ladygin, who was competing in Imola for the first time, was 23rd.
At the start of the opening race all three Ladas got off to an excellent start, with Thompson in particular making up a number of places. Despite picking up some light damage during a spirited battle with another competitor, Thompson was able to lap quickly and consistently at the front of the field. He finished comfortably in the points, just 5.6 seconds behind the winner.
Unfortunately, van Lagen's race did not have such a happy ending. The Dutchman made up eight places in the first few corners and was running comfortably just outside the top 10 when he was pushed into the tyres at high speed. The resulting heavy damage meant that he was unable to start the second race. Ladygin drove an excellent race to make up nine places and finish 14th.
Van Lagen commented: "Once we solved the brake problem that affected me in qualifying I was happy with the car. We proved this with the lap times I set during the race, which were similar to those of James. Unfortunately, one competitor didn't like the fact that I was in front of him and pushed me off with serious consequences for our car, which is now badly damaged."
The starting order for race two was the finishing order for race one with the top eight reversed, as per FIA WTCC rules. This meant that Thompson lined up third on the grid: another new record for Lada. Unfortunately though the Englishman had a bad start and dropped to seventh. Undeterred, he fought his way back up to fifth before being passed by a faster diesel car in the closing laps. Ladygin finished 20th after being forced onto the gravel by some over-aggressive tactics from another competitor.
Nonetheless, the Russian driver commented: "I had so much fun this weekend! This track is fantastic and I had some really good fights, even though I struggled with the balance of the car sometimes. But I am happy with my pace and results."
Team Principal Viktor Shapovalov concluded: "This has been a great weekend for us. Not only have we scored our first points, in both races, but we have also improved our pace to the point where we can really compete with our rivals. We can be very proud of everything we have achieved so far. I would like to thank our drivers and all our team members for doing such a great job and believing in our potential. We will continue to work hard on development, with the aim of keeping this same pace in future."
The FIA WTCC now moves to the Far East for the final two rounds of the series, which take place in Japan and Macau. The Lada Prioras will next be in action at the Japanese circuit of Okayama from October 31-November 1.