LADA boss Viktor Shapovalov slammed Fernando Monje after Sunday’s second World Touring Car Championship race on Sunday, after the Campos driver crashed into the back of James Thompson and prevented the team securing a second consecutive points finish.
“These driving standards are not suitable for a global championship at this level, and we’re pleased that the stewards agree with us on this point,” said Shapovalov, himself a former WTCC racer, after the event. “Now we will draw a line under the incident and concentrate on preparing for the next round in Slovakia.”
Thompson himself was left reeling after the incident, which prevented him from scoring his second top ten result of the season. “It’s a pity. Fernando actually hit me several times in both races and there is absolutely no need for things like that,” said Thompson. “In the second race he deliberately hit me from the back, and there’s no justification for driving in that way, as he wasn’t trying to overtake me at the time. It’s not only unprofessional but it’s also dangerous for himself and everyone else around him.”
Monje, who started from pole position in the second race but rapidly dropped down the order, was subsequently given a five-place grid penalty for the opening race in Slovakia, something which Thompson applauded.
“You can’t play with these cars: it’s a dangerous sport, so it’s great that the stewards have taken action and he realizes this sooner rather than later,” added Thompson.
In the first race of the day Brit Thompson scored the team’s first-ever WTCC point, although he feels that the car was capable of more.
“The speed of the LADA Granta has been consistently good all weekend: I was right in the slipstream behind Tom Coronel and it’s clear that our car has got great potential. Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to fight for the result that I knew was possible. We were in the top 10 in the first race, taking a point, and I think we would have done even better in the second race.”
Thompson’s new team-mate in Morocco was WTCC rookie Mikhail Kozlovskiy. The young Russian finished both races in 16th and 13th positions respectively as he got to grips with both a new car and a new circuit.
“I can’t actually say the race was too hard for me,” admitted Kozlovskiy. “The only thing that was a little bit tough to cope with was the hot weather and the very short break between the two races. I had a few problems at the start, but I managed to overtake one of the BMWs and I aimed just to stay out of trouble.
“It’s a narrow circuit and hard to pass on but I did my best to capitalise on the mistakes of other people. In the last couple of laps of the second race, I was actually posting better lap times than I did in qualifying, which underlines the progress we have made. Of course I can’t be completely satisfied with 13th place but this was my very first weekend in the FIA WTCC with no testing, so all things considered it isn’t too bad. Now I’m hoping I can build on this progress at the next round in Slovakia.”
Despite their problematic weekend, LADA still profited in the manufacturer’s championship, winning both events thanks to Honda’s Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini crashing in races one and two respectively.