BAD LUCK FOR LADA IN JAPAN The Lada Sport team endured a frustrating end to its trip to Japan for the 11th round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship at Okayama. After getting three of the cars to the finish in the opening race, ...
BAD LUCK FOR LADA IN JAPAN
The Lada Sport team endured a frustrating end to its trip to Japan for the 11th round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship at Okayama. After getting three of the cars to the finish in the opening race, James Thompson (n.36), Jaap van Lagen (n.19) and Kirill Ladygin (n.20) were all forced to retire with freak problems in race two. Nonetheless, the Lada Priora served notice of its potential by setting a number of fastest sector times during the second race, during which van Lagen ran in an excellent sixth place.
As always, the technical Okayama circuit presented a wide variety of challenges to the visiting WTCC teams. The weather was sunny and dry during practice and qualifying, but there was heavy rain for the two races.
Englishman James Thompson, who recently won the European Touring Car Cup, qualified for the opening race in 13th place despite a power steering problem. The race started in torrential rain behind the safety car, which came in after two laps. Thompson made a good getaway and soon reached ninth, but struggled for downforce in the corners. Eventually he finished 11th in the wet conditions.
The rain proved to be his undoing in race two, as although he started strongly again to climb to seventh place, his windscreen wipers failed. They eventually came back, but a crack in the windscreen from an errant stone was causing a huge amount of condensation. Totally unable to see, James had no choice but to come in and retire from ninth with seven laps to go.
Thompson commented: "How unlucky was that? Everything was going well otherwise. I also know that we can do better than the 11th place we scored in race one. There's a lot of work for us still to do, but we'll get there I'm sure!"
Jaap van Lagen from Holland struggled to find the right set-up during free practice and qualifying, ending up with 19th place on the grid for race one. After the safety car came in he made up several places to finish 13th. Race two, with a standing start, was more complex for the front-wheel drive runners and van Lagen was passed off the line by two rear-wheel drive BMWs. The Dutchman staged a brilliant fightback with some daring overtaking moves, getting up to eighth place by the end of the opening lap. Van Lagen eventually battled his way up to sixth, with his Lada Priora setting several fastest sector times and a 5th fastest time overall! Unfortunately, the car then started to lose engine power and retired with just five laps to go.
"It's really disappointing as we genuinely had a lot of pace," said van Lagen, a former drifting champion back home in Holland. "I was just unlucky. Still, we never give up and I am already looking forward to the next round in Macau."
Russian driver Kirill Ladygin qualified 25th after battling understeer during free practice and qualifying. He found that the wet conditions of the opening race suited him though, and he was soon up to 15th. He dropped a place after some contact with another competitor but still managed to finish 16th. He was unfortunately denied the chance to capitalise on this performance by a serious oil leak on the pre-grid for race two. With no time to fix it, Lada was forced to wheel Ladygin back into the pits.
The Russian concluded: "I was really looking forward to the second race as we had the chance to start in a good position. But it wasn't to be. The important thing is that we have all demonstrated the potential of the car over the course of the weekend, and now we look forward to the future."
The next and final round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship is the legendary Macau Grand Prix from November 21-22.