LADA Sport’s James Thompson, competing in his first World Touring Car Championship season since 2007, is pleased with his practice performances, having set the 7th and 9th fastest times.
Having competed in two meetings in 2012, during which he scored a best result of 11th, Thompson and LADA will be competing in 2013 as an official works entry. The team completed their first laps of the Monza circuit early on Saturday in Free Practice 1.
“It’s the first time we’ve run with everybody else since last year so from that side we’re quite pleased and are under no illusions,” said Thompson to TouringCars.Net. “Let’s face it – nobody had even talked about us being in the top ten. From that point of view we’re quietly confident. We’ve got a better package than last year and we’ve worked on the car for the fundamentals but we have to work through the year on the speed of the car.”
LADA Sport, run by TMS Sport, have completed all of their winter testing distance at Magny-Cours in France and consequently have not had many opportunities to test the car on high-speed circuits such as Monza and Marrakech.
“We’ve not moved from Magny-Cours – we’ve done all the testing there because we’re based near Magny-Cours,” added Thompson. “It was unknown how much we’d gain from last year. Early signs are positive – obviously we’ve only done five timed laps around the track but it’s better to be in the top ten and not the second ten.”
With many teams already towing in order to improve laptimes – a necessity at Monza worth up to a second per lap – Thompson adds that his FP1 laptime was produced without the aid of a tow, making it all the more impressive.
“I always try to stay alone at least in first free practice because you need to be under no illusions and know where you stand. But at Monza you have to have slipstream to be fast. For us we haven’t done enough mileage to be able to say ‘we’ll sacrifice this section just to look for a lap time’. We need to make sure the car is the best it possibly can be. We’re not exactly on the money so we need to make some small changes and step by step through the weekend hopefully we’ll have a good package.
“From our point of view we’ve come here and we’re ahead of some Chevrolets and are ahead of all the SEATs and they’ve got proven record – they’re race winners and we’ve not even scored a point. That puts in context our situation. We have to be objective and treat each session as a building block for all of the races to come.
“If we can be in the top eight I’ll be very pleased,” added Thompson. “For these first two races it’s all about top speed so we’ll see more true performance when we go to Hungary and Slovakia. That’s where hopefully we’ll have an evolution of the car from the first couple of races.”