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James Thompson, LADA Sport - Q&A

28 February 2013


James Thompson returns to the WTCC for the 2013 campaign having inked a deal to lead LADA's assault with the new Granta Sport - which he debuted in selected events last year.

The Briton answered questions from Crash.net during a brief break from testing at Mangy-Cours, where he was putting more miles on the car alongside new team-mate Aleksei Dudukalo.



Crash.net:
James, you have raced many factory touring cars over the course of nearly 20 years as a saloon racer. What do you make of the LADA Granta Sport compared to other manufacturers that you have driven for?

James Thompson:
Actually, it's difficult to compare, particularly as things have changed a lot in the last few years. There are new engines, new technical regulations, so it requires slightly different answers from the car. To compare the cars is probably not very fair, but it's still very enjoyable from my side to try and get the best of every car and package.

Crash.net:
For the last twelve months you have been working hard developing the car for a competitive WTCC season in 2013. What progress has been made since you first turned the wheel of the Granta Sport nearly a year ago to where the car is now?

James Thompson:
We have made a big step forward since our first LADA Granta tests in March 2012, and the great results in the development of the car were achieved after our long test in August. Now the car has a much better chassis balance and speed on the long straights. We also have a new more powerful engine, but we aim to constantly evolve the car step-by-step.

Crash.net:
You were quoted as saying at previous tests that you and LADA are working hard on fine-tuning on the chassis set-up and aerodynamic properties, to enable greater top speed. Where do you think the car is strong and where do you think that the car can improve?

James Thompson:
We have a smaller car in comparison, with, let's say, Chevrolet. In some areas it potentially makes us a little bit weaker in terms of high speed, stability - it's just physics. But the positive thing is good aerodynamic characteristics thanks to a smaller size. Potentially if we maximise what we have, we can achieve better top speed. The car hopefully should be very nimble and good in change of directions, in the slow corners. It's a matter of maximising those strengths and minimising potential weaknesses in comparison to the others.

Crash.net:
What do you and the team expect in terms of results and performance?

James Thompson:
I think we could really be competitive and fight in the top ten as a starting point and then onwards and upwards!

Crash.net:
The factory Chevrolets and the Fords are gone from the grid for 2013, but Honda has come in and have been performing impressively in testing. Does this give you headaches or is this a blessing for you and LADA?

James Thompson:
It's great for the Championship to add manufacturers, and this competition is very much welcomed. The Chevrolet has been the dominant car. We've entered the Championship and are trying to be competitive with the long-term aim to be at the top step, and it's the same for Honda and all other potential manufacturers. It's good for the Championship to see new manufacturers and the competition it brings.

Crash.net:
You have been successful in the past in the British Rally championship, would you like to have a go in a LADA rally car in a Russian championship perhaps?

James Thompson:
As far as I know for the time being they don't have a rally programme and the focus is made on touring cars. Perhaps in the future it would be interesting to try a LADA Rally car, I'm always open to any new challenges. Honestly, I really enjoy driving touring cars, I've been driving the touring cars for almost 19 years and I keep enjoying the process. For me it's a passion, not job.

Crash.net:
Are LADA looking to stay in the WTCC for 2014 when car spec is looking to be significantly changed and are you interested driving in the new regulations?

James Thompson:
LADA has a three-year agreement with Lukoil to participate in the WTCC. Of course, it's always exciting to have a new challenge, whatever the challenge is. This year is a challenge with the car in this format and I will try the get the best from it. Next year there will be a change of regulations and it's another challenge. That's always interesting.


by Dexter Fielding


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