The LADA Sport Lukoil team finally broke through for its first World Touring Car Championship podium during last weekend’s visit to Argentina, marking a significant turnaround for the Russian outfit after a tough 2014 campaign.
Having struggled to break off the bottom of the TC1 class charts, the LADA Granta WTCC was quick out of the box as soon as the first session at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit got underway. The red cars lapped within one second of the leading Citroëns, having struggled all season to break the two-second deficit.
Former champion Rob Huff was the standout performer, knocking teammate James Thompson out of Q2 contention on his final lap. He then put his car tenth-fastest, which gave his pole position for Race 2.
After vaulting to seventh place at the start of Race 1, Huff kept the Honda of Gabriele Tarquini at bay for the rest of the race to finish seventh. It was his best result of the season since finishing fifth in wet/dry conditions at Paul Ricard in April.
Race 2 went even better. Huff managed to convert pole position into an early 2.5-second lead over the battling Hondas which were giving chase. Ultimately, he fell victim to another masterful drive from the championship-leading Citroën of José María López, who took the lead with four laps to go. Huff still managed to hang on and finish a hugely creditable second. It was the Englishman’s best finish since joining the team, and the outfit’s first podium since it made its first WTCC start in 2008.
“I am absolutely delighted with this result. We could have won, but I knew how much this second place would mean for the team, so I made sure we got it,” an overjoyed Huff beamed afterwards.
“Honestly, I enjoyed the podium as much as any I have had before and it was so nice to celebrate with the team who earned this result through tireless effort and dedication.”
There were double causes for celebrations in the LADA camp, with Thompson earning a pair of tenth-placed finishes. The former British Touring Car Championship winner is provisionally classified in ninth for Race 2 after Dušan Borković was disqualified, although the final result is the subject of an appeal by Campos Racing.
“That was a fantastic weekend for the team,” Thompson added. “I am very happy for Rob and it’s a well-deserved podium for all of us! All the cars performed excellently this weekend I was happy to score points again, satisfied with the car’s drivability, pace and consistency.”
Images via FIA WTCC Media