Nicolas Lapierre will replace Jaap van Lagen in the LADA Sport Rosneft team for the final four flyaway rounds of this year’s FIA World Touring Car Championship, the Russian team has confirmed.
Thirty-one-year-old Lapierre will make his touring car debut at next month’s Race of Japan at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
“Driving the Lada Vesta TC1 in the FIA World Touring Car Championship is a very exciting challenge for me,” he said.
“I have driven a lot of single-seaters and sportcars, but I’ve never been seated behind the wheel of a touring car. Turbo-engined, front-wheel-driven cars are new to me and I had a lot to learn when I initially stepped into the Vesta, but the Lada Sport Rosneft team helped me a lot. I will do my best to learn how to race in the WTCC as quickly as possible and I hope to be able to grab some serious points for Lada Sport Rosneft.”
The Frenchman has a longstanding relationship with the team’s technical partner ORECA, with whom he currently races in the FIA World Endurance Championship and won LMP2 class honours at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
A talented open-wheel racer in his youth, Lapierre shot to prominence by helping Team France win the 2005-6 A1 Grand Prix championship title alongside his countryman Alexandre Prémat. Unable to repeat the achievements in Formula 1’s feeder category, the GP2 Series, Lapierre switched sports cars where he has driven for the likes of ORECA and Toyota.
Lapierre becomes the Russian outfit’s sixth different driver across its three-car line-up. He tested for the team – alongside van Lagen, Rob Huff and Nicky Catsburg – back in June after the Race of France at Paul Ricard.
Van Lagen was himself drafted into the team mid-season to replace James Thompson after the Briton was dropped during the Race of Hungary round earlier in the season. The Dutchman – whose prior WTCC outings came with the same team in 2009 – scored points on his return outing at the Nürburgring Norschleife and has achieved a further four top-ten finishes. His best result was a reverse-grid pole position and sixth-placed finish at the second race at the Slovakia Ring.
Van Lagen was widely credited as the key figure behind the arrival of his countryman Nicky Catsburg, who arrived as the replacement for Russian driver Mikhail Kozlovskiy. The team is expected to retain the services of Catsburg for the remainder of the season.
Images via FIA WTCC Media
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