LADA ready to build on German form Lada Sport can reflect on its growing stature in the FIA World Touring Car Championship following a greatly increased team performance in the ninth event of the season at Oberschleben in Germany. The Russian...
LADA ready to build on German form
Lada Sport can reflect on its growing stature in the FIA World Touring Car Championship following a greatly increased team performance in the ninth event of the season at Oberschleben in Germany. The Russian team, which fielded a three-car team of its new Priora racing cars for the first time this weekend, has grown in strength in its first season as a manufacturer in the WTCC.
With his starting position on the second row of the grid for the first of today's two races, hopes were high that the team's Dutch driver Jaap van Lagen could score Lada's first WTCC points following his sensational qualifying performance. After a strong start to the race, in which he avoided the first corner melee that accounted for several other top runners, van Lagen was well on course to achieve the team's goal until he was pushed off the road in the very last turn by a competitor.
Although he was able to regain the circuit, his eventual 11th place classification was scant reward for the inspired team strategy and strength of his driving. "In the first corner I got hits from a lot of cars and there was quite a lot of body damage," van Lagen said. "Even so I could keep my pace with that of the front-runners and I was comfortable in fifth place until at about 3 laps before the end I started struggling with tire wear. With some "drifting" actions I could keep my car on the track and the cars behind me. But finally an over enthusiastic competitor pushed me out in the last corner of the very last lap, which was a real disappointment."
Team-mate Kiril Ladygin came home in 16th place at the end of the first race. Although he and the Priora were performing ok, the Russian's race pace suffered as a result of broken suspension. Meanwhile team principal Victor Shapovalov, who was substituting for the team's former British Touring Car Championship winner James Thompson, started well from 25th place but had to retire in the first lap due to a steering pump failure.
Race 2 saw the cars line up in their finishing positions from the first race. Although strongly placed in 11th on the grid, van Lagen's Priora had received damage in the first race that led to difficulties with the gearbox and he was forced to reduce his pace, crossing the line 20th. This was the only classified finish for the Lada Sport team, after Shapovalov's car suffered a repeat of its steering pump problems and Ladygin's third Priora was struck by terminal handling problems.
"We have shown the Priora's fundamental competitiveness this weekend, thanks to an inspired performance from Jaap and the whole team focused on getting to the points," said Lada Sport team boss Victor Shapovalov. "Having got so close to the points it is of course disappointing to have been denied the reward that the team deserves, but that's racing. I am really happy with Jaap's performance which was brilliant. Especially his pace in race 1 which was at the same level as our competitors. We will simply add this experience to our growing knowledge of WTCC competition and come back even stronger next time."
The WTCC trail continues at the famous Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari at Imola for Italy's round of the series in two weeks time (September 18-20), with Lada Sport keen to build on its pace at Oberschleben.