Lada eager to get back into action at Okayama After more than a month's break the Lada Sport team returns to action for the 11th round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, which is held at the Japanese circuit of Okayama this...
Lada eager to get back into action at Okayama
After more than a month's break the Lada Sport team returns to action for the 11th round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, which is held at the Japanese circuit of Okayama this weekend.
The Lada Priora is more and more fighting with the toprunners now
Since the last FIA WTCC round in Italy at the end of September, the Lada Sport team has been testing in the south of France to develop engine evolutions for the new Priora touring car, which made its debut in Portugal earlier this year.
Some promising recent performances have underlined the potential of the Priora in the hands of Britain's James Thompson (n.36), Dutchman Jaap Van Lagen (n.18) and Russian driver Kirill Ladygin (n.19). However, Okayama is sure to present another big challenge for all the teams.
The 3.70-kilometre circuit, located on Honshu Island, hosted the Pacific Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1994 and 1995. The FIA WTCC visited Okayama, which is a tight and technical track, for the first time last year, to the delight of enthusiastic local fans. James Thompson currently holds the race lap record for the current generation of touring cars at this circuit, setting a time of 1m48.767s (122.56 kph) in race one last year.
The Englishman, who has spearheaded the development of the Lada Priora touring car, is feeling upbeat heading into the penultimate round of this year's FIA WTCC. Fresh from the back of his recent success at the prestigious European Touring Car Cup, Thompson is now looking forward to the long trip to Japan and a circuit he enjoys.
"Life is really good at the moment," he recounted. "I've been very busy, and together with the Lada engineers we're making steady progress with the Priora. There's still a long way to go but step by step we're getting there. Japan is a difficult track and there's a risk of bad weather as well. Under these circumstances absolutely anything can happen, so we will be aiming to make the most of any opportunities that come our way over the course of the weekend."
Jaap Van Lagen has also shown plenty of speed, qualifying as high as fourth overall this year, but the Dutchman has experienced bad luck with other competitors driving into him as well. He is hoping for a strong end to the season at the two final Far Eastern FIA WTCC rounds in Japan and Macau.
"I think Japan will be a lot of fun," said Van Lagen. "After what has been an extremely positive year we are all determined to end the season on a high. Our speed has been improving with every race and I hope we can continue like this in Okayama. However, I am sure that our competitors will have done a lot of work during the month's break as well. So let's see what happens."
Kirill Ladygin, a former winner of Lada's own one-make championship back home in Russia, concluded: "My confidence is growing but I am sure that Japan will be a big test. My aim is to get to the end of both races and learn as much as I can, in order to be in a strong position to challenge for a good result at Macau at the end of the year, which I am really looking forward to as well."
The Okayama race weekend gets underway with a test day on Friday 30 October. Then there are two free practice sessions on Saturday morning followed by qualifying from 16:00-16:20. Race one on Sunday starts at 13:55 and runs for half an hour. The second race, which is identical in length, starts at 16:05. All times are local, and Japan is eight hours ahead of central Europe.