LADA AIMS TO END FIA WTCC SEASON ON A HIGH The Lada Sport squad, completing its first season as a registered manufacturer in the FIA World Touring Car Championship, is aiming to end the year on a high at the final race in the former...
LADA AIMS TO END FIA WTCC SEASON ON A HIGH
The Lada Sport squad, completing its first season as a registered manufacturer in the FIA World Touring Car Championship, is aiming to end the year on a high at the final race in the former Portuguese colony of Macau.
The Macau Guia race, held entirely on narrow city streets, is arguably the most prestigious touring car event of the year. The 6.1-kilometre track is fast, slippery and bumpy, leaving absolutely no margin for error.
The first Macau Guia Touring Car race was held in 1972, and for the past five years it has formed the finale to the FIA World Touring Car Championship. For Lada Sport, this challenging track represents an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the all-round capabilities of the new Priora.
Having been introduced at the Portuguese round of the championship in July, the Lada Priora has hinted at its potential with a number of promising runs this year, including a fourth place in qualifying at Oschersleben in Germany. Once more, the Lada Sport team will benefit from the experience of Britain's James Thompson (n.36), Dutchman Jaap van Lagen (n.18) and Russia's Kirill Ladygin (n.19).
Thompson has plenty of knowledge of the Macau circuit, having competed there five times previously with one podium finish. The 35-year-old Englishman has helped the Belgian-based Lada team to develop the Priora throughout the season, recording some top-six results, and he is hoping for another strong performance to conclude the year on a positive note in Macau.
"So far, I think we can all be very pleased with the work we have carried out with the new Priora," said Thompson, the winner of this year's European Touring Car Cup. "There's obviously still a long way to go, but we're definitely heading in the right direction. Macau has a fantastic atmosphere although like all street circuits it can be a bit of a lottery. For us, the focus will be on taking every opportunity that we can get and above all finishing the races."
Van Lagen first competed at Macau with Lada last year, and the Dutchman is planning to put all the lessons he learned into practice this weekend. Street circuits, with their notoriously unpredictable conditions, are amongst his specialities, as he has proved in the past at Monaco Grand Prix support races.
"It's true that I've always loved street circuits: maybe because of my background in drifting and rallying as well!" said van Lagen. "Macau is an unforgettable experience, but it's very easy to become involved in somebody else's accident, as has happened to me a few times already this year. I'll be aiming to make a clean start; then hopefully I'll have the opportunity to overtake a few cars and get a good result. It's the sort of circuit that can spring a few surprises."
Ladygin, a former winner of the Lada Trophy back home in Russia, also raced at Macau last year. He will prioritise staying out of trouble in order to benefit from any chances that come his way.
"For me, this year has been all about building up experience," said Ladygin. "Macau is a really difficult circuit where you have to think on your feet. But I always like this type of challenge, and I think it will be important for all of us to try to end the year in the strongest way possible. So the emphasis is on finishing the races."
The Macau weekend kicks off with testing on Thursday 19 November from 12:20-12:50. There are two free practice sessions on Friday 20 November before qualifying on the same day from 16:00-16:20. On Sunday 22 November race one takes place at 12:05 and race two begins at 13:25. Both races will take place over nine laps and as usual the action will be shown live on Eurosport: Europe's largest television channel. All times are local: Macau is seven hours ahead of central Europe.