LADA PRIORA MAKES RELIABLE DEBUT IN FIA WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP The all-new Lada Priora, which made its debut at the seventh round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship in Portugal this weekend, has run reliably to the finish of...
LADA PRIORA MAKES RELIABLE DEBUT IN FIA WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
The all-new Lada Priora, which made its debut at the seventh round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship in Portugal this weekend, has run reliably to the finish of both races, underlining its potential for the future.
The Priora came to the Boavista street circuit in Portugal, which hosted the Portuguese Grand Prix in 1958 and 1960, with no testing and 60 kilograms of ballast, as the rules demand for any new homologation of car. At the wheel of the Priora was two-time British Touring Car Champion James Thompson (n.36), making his debut with Lada. Alongside the Priora, two examples of the existing Lada 110 were entered as usual for Dutchman Jaap van Lagen (n.18) and Russian driver Kirill Ladygin (n.19). The Priora's potential was hinted at during the morning warm-up, held in mixed conditions, where Thompson ran as high as 13th.
Van Lagen was the highest qualifier for Lada in race one, placing his car 18th on the grid. However, his race weekend came to a dramatic end on the opening lap of the race. Having made an excellent start, the Dutchman moved between two cars in an attempt to make up more places. Unfortunately he found himself squeezed out as all the cars headed into the narrow first corner, and van Lagen ended up hitting the wall along with another competitor.
The race was then red-flagged as the result of a separate incident on the opening lap after the track was blocked. Van Lagen's car was recovered to the pits but there it was discovered that the chassis was bent at the front-left corner, meaning that the Dutchman would not be able to play any further part in proceedings over the weekend.
"It was a real pity but just one of those racing incidents," said Jaap van Lagen. "I made a great start and I was confident that we could move up the order but then I ended up with nowhere to go, so my weekend was over before it had begun. These things happen in racing but it's still very disappointing."
When racing resumed, Thompson was able to make the most of the reliability of the new Priora to make up some places and finish in a trouble-free 18th place, having started at the back of the grid due to a ride height infringement during qualifying. The Priora had no problems at all from start to finish, enabling the team to work on a few ideas for the second race. The improvement continued during race two, which was also interrupted by a red flag with only a couple of laps left to go. When the chequered flag finally fell, Thompson was 15th following a solid run to the finish.
"We achieved everything we wanted to do, which was get the car to the finish, confirm its reliability, and deliver it back in one piece, so that everyone can now concentrate on development rather than having to fix things," said James Thompson, the winner of last year's FIA WTCC round at Imola in Italy. "There are some things on the car that we have been improving all weekend, so now we need to continue this process in a methodical way. I think we've managed to find a good base level of reliability so now we can just focus on trying to make the car quicker. I've enjoyed the weekend a lot and I'm looking forward now to racing on home territory at Brands Hatch in two weeks time."
Kirill Ladygin qualified 23rd for the opening race, but found himself caught up in the blockage on the first lap of race one. He returned to the pits where the Lada mechanics were able to quickly repair the damage to his car during the red flag period. However, this intervention meant that he incurred a drive through penalty and eventually finished 19th.
The Russian started race two where he finished race one, as the championship rules state, and soon moved up the order. But contact with another competitor broke his car's steering and he was forced to come into the pits on the penultimate lap, although he was still classified 17th.
"On the whole it's been a good weekend," said Kirill Ladygin. "It was a pity not to finish the second race properly, but I really don't think it was my fault. With the steering broken I felt it was too dangerous to continue so I stopped. But my first visit to Porto has been an interesting experience and as a team we've learnt a lot on the debut of our new car."
The eight round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship will take place on July 19 at Brands Hatch in England, where James Thompson will compete in front of his home fans with the Lada Priora for the first time.