The factory LADA Sport outfit is set to take to the track with three of its brand-new Priora models for the first time in the latest round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) this weekend – and the drivers can barely contain their enthusiasm.
Following a six-week summer break, the Belgian-based operation has had the opportunity to build two more examples of the Priora – which replaces the LADA 110 and first took to the track in anger in the hands of James Thompson at Porto just under two months ago – for all three of its drivers. The car recently undertook a test session at Magny-Cours in France that focussed upon general development of the chassis and engine.
However, with time so tight on the FIA WTCC schedule, most of the testing programme will have to take place in public at the actual races – leaving LADA Sport eager to attack the second half of the closely-fought campaign.
With lead driver Thompson unable to take part in the Oschersleben meeting – held around the high-speed east German circuit – due to a previous commitment to compete in the Australian V8 series, team principal Viktor Shapovalov will reprise his driving role this weekend. It is a chance the Russian is clearly relishing.
“Of course I've missed driving,” acknowledged the 44-year-old, who began the season as a race driver for the squad before stepping aside for the incoming Thompson in Portugal in early July, “so this is a very nice opportunity for me. I've been out of competition for a couple of months so I might not be up-to-speed straightaway, but I'm certainly going to be trying my hardest.”
Following his return from Australia, Thompson will then retake the wheel of the #20 machine for the remainder of the year, alongside regulars Jaap van Lagen and Kirill Ladygin.
“It's clearly a car with a lot of potential,” remarked the former of the Priora. “For me, the Oschersleben weekend will be mostly about getting used to the car, but I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do. It should be an exciting race.”
“There are quite a few steps made with this car compared with the older 110,” added Ladygin. “Of course, it will take a little while for me to be in a position to get the most out of it, so my aim in Germany will be to spend as much time in it as possible.”