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LADA celebrates maiden front row start

James Thompson has secured the best qualifying result for LADA in the World Touring Car Championship as he set the ninth fastest time of the session, resulting in a front row start for round 24 of the season.

The Briton had secured a similar result at the season opener in Italy but an accident in qualifying ruled him and then team-mate Alexey Dudukalo out of the weekend.

Having got through the interrupted first part of qualifying with the sixth fastest time, the British driver is delighted to have secured himself a front row start for the season finale.

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“Starting so high up the grid is not only the best qualifying result for us this season, but also the best-ever qualifying result in LADA’s WTCC history,” Thompson said.

“So I’m absolutely thrilled with our achievement here. We could actually have started the season at Monza in the same position, because we qualified ninth there in Q2 as well, but then there was the accident that meant we couldn’t start the race. So in that respect, we’re ending the season exactly as we started it: on the front row! And that’s very encouraging.”

Thompson believes that the qualifying result was always on the cars after the form shown during the earlier two free practice sessions and that the LADA Granta is suited to the 6.2km Guia circuit despite its fast first sector.

“Of course, it means a huge amount that we’ve managed to do it at such a tough track like the Guia circuit. We’re particularly strong in the mid sector, which definitely helps us. The first sector, with a series of fast corners, is a bit more tricky for us, but on the whole the overall speed and performance of the LADA Granta is very good on this track.

“That comes as no surprise after the pace we were able to show in testing and free practice, where we were constantly in the top 10. I’m feeling very positive about the race on Sunday and I’m ready to give it my best shot!” he concluded.

Macau debutant Mikhail Kozlovskiy finished 20th fastest in qualifying but saw his times decrease as he gains more knowledge of the twisty street circuit.

He is convinced that the final two rounds of the season will be exciting as the qualifying session as he admits that the accidents can produce a disruptive flow and hamper concentration levels.

“In qualifying I was improving with every set of new tyres,” the young Russian driver said. “Compared with FP2, I actually improved my lap time by 2.7 seconds – so that’s not too bad at all. We’ve still got a few things to work on though.

“On the last set of tyres we could have made a bit more progress, but in the first sector of the track after the long straight I hit the barrier – and that definitely influenced my lap time! This circuit is extremely difficult and it certainly keeps you on your toes all the time. You frequently get sessions stopped due to accidents, so there’s no right to make any mistakes, basically.

“There’s only a short space of time to string a decent lap together, so you’ve got to be as concentrated as possible and psychologically ready to improve rapidly. I was lucky, because the red flags came out just as I was finishing my quick laps. I’m sure Sunday’s races will be very exciting, from what I can see so far!” he concluded.

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