LADA SHOWS PROMISING PROGRESS IN PUEBLA The LADA Sport team has enjoyed a good outing on only its second event as a registered manufacturer in the FIA World Touring Car Championship. Round two of the series took place on the technical Puebla...
LADA SHOWS PROMISING PROGRESS IN PUEBLA
The LADA Sport team has enjoyed a good outing on only its second event as a registered manufacturer in the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
Round two of the series took place on the technical Puebla circuit in Mexico, containing a road track within an oval. After taking some time to adapt the set-up of the three LADA 110s to the specific demands of the circuit before qualifying, the drivers were determined to push as hard as they could during the two races. The weather remained dry and sunny throughout the weekend, but the high altitude in Mexico robbed all the engines of power in the thin air.
Every event still forms a steep learning curve for the LADA Sport team and two of the drivers, Jaap van Lagen and Viktor Shapovalov, took time on Sunday morning to resolve some suspension set-up issues that were still outstanding during free practice. When it came to the race, all the cars started in full health.
The Dutchman van Lagen (n.18) started race one at the back of the grid following a problem with a radiator hose during qualifying, but got off to a fighting start. He enjoyed a thrilling battle with the SEAT of Tom Boardman, but was edged back into 17th place at the finish, less than one second behind his rival. He consequently started race two from 17th on the grid, which is also where he finished. On the way he was once more able to fight with several important competitors, such as privateer BMW driver Georg Tanev, clearly demonstrating LADA's potential.
van Lagen said after the finish: "It was a really good race and I had some very enjoyable fights with the others. Our car is basically good but we are lacking power on the straights, which is making the difference. So on the whole, this weekend was a very encouraging experience. Puebla was brand new to us and we all learnt a lot."
Kirill Ladygin from Russia (n.19) also had a combative start to race one, climbing up the order. He finished the opening race in 18th just behind his team mate van Lagen, having made up five places relative to his qualifying position. When it came to race two, the Russian had problems getting his tyres up to temperature and this led to persistent understeer. Nonetheless, he steered clear of trouble to end up 20th at the finish after a tough weekend's work.
The former LADA Cup winner reported: "The biggest challenge for me during the second race was just keeping the car on the road. During the first race it was better. But experiences like these all form part of the learning experience, and we come away from Mexico with plenty of lessons taken on board."
Russian Viktor Shapovalov, who runs the team as well as driving the n.20 LADA 110 2.0, got off to an unluckier start in race one. After getting away cleanly, he was hit on the right-rear door, sending the car into a spin. He eventually recovered, but remained some way behind his rivals. In the end, he was forced to retire just two laps from the chequered flag with a broken throttle cable. Race two was a lot more positive, with Shapovalov managing to move up the order convincingly and eventually finish 19th after a promising drive.
The team leader concluded: "We've had a lot of fun this weekend and underlined our potential. It's clear that we still have some way to go, but we have clearly identified the main areas of improvement. We got three cars to the end of the second race, highlighting our impressive reliability, and gained a lot of useful information for next year. In the short-term future, the next race will also be new to us, but it will be new to everyone else as well. So situations like these can only help the new teams such as ourselves."
The next round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship is at the new street circuit in Marrakech, Morocco, on 3 May.