The LADA Sport Rosneft team elected to miss the recent pre-season test and open media call for the 2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship at Barcelona, opting instead to give its all-new Vesta model its first on-track miles in a private test session at France’s Magny Cours circuit last week.
With Rob Huff having claimed two wins last season with the team’s outgoing Granta model, the team is confident that the Vesta will deliver significant performance gains and allow the Russian carmaker to compete regularly near the front of the field.
The development of the new car has not been without its challenges, however. The earlier-than-usual scheduling of the season-opener – to be held in Argentina in less than three weeks’ time – has given the team a tight deadline to prepare and ready its three cars in time.
“Unfortunately, due to the early season start this year we are time-restricted, and it’s obvious that tests will continue during the first WTCC rounds. The team has completed a huge bulk of the work over these two months and we are still working 24 hours a day to be prepared for the first race in Argentina. We are all highly motivated and, though the team started tests with a delay, we are ready to get into the fight on the track from the start of the season,” said Team Principal, Victor Shapovalov.
Huff, along with teammates James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy, was on hand to put the new Vesta through its paces, and Huff was quick to praise the new design.
“Having driven the new Lada Vesta TC1 there is no doubt that this is a proper racecar worthy of a proper effort in 2015. It’s testament to Lada and what it is achieving as a car manufacturer that it can design and build a car of this quality in such a short space of time,” the former WTCC title-winner said.
Teammate Thompson – who endured the lion’s share of the Granta’s reliability problems last year – was also full of praise, but was cautious about the team’s ability to be competitive from the outset, such was the amount of work still to be done.
“My first experience behind the wheel of the car confirmed that it drives as well as it looks and suggests we will have a very real opportunity to compete on par with our rival manufacturer teams, although the true potential of the Vesta will become evident over the course of the first few rounds,” the Englishman added.
“I’m genuinely excited about potentially having a car that can be pushed hard and one that’s significantly faster than its predecessor, even in its most basic trim. Ultimately, the Granta’s deficiencies have been overcome with good engineering and aerodynamics [in the Vesta].”
The season-opening Race of Argentina takes place at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo on March 7-8.
Image via LADA