The upcoming FIA World Touring Car Championship grid could still feature a few LADA Vesta TC1 racers despite the Russian carmaker’s surprise decision to quit as a manufacturer entry at the end of 2016.
According to the latest paddock gossip, team principal Viktor Shapovalov may have a lifeline to keep his team on the grid, albeit as a privateer entry.
Shapovalovhad largely spearheaded LADA’s on-again, off-again involvement in the WTCC, with his first involvement coming as a driver in the privateer Russian Bears Racing team in 2008 before it gained manufacturer support from LADA in 2009.
It is understood that Shapovalov has an agreement with series promoter Eurosport Events that would allow him to have his team return to the grid as a privateer entry alongside a number of rival independent outfits running Citroëns and RML-built Chevrolets. The sole manufacturer entries would be supported by Honda and Volvo, which are both expected to field three cars apiece.
Shapovalov will have the additional challenge of securing enough funding – in the absence of commercial support from LADA itself and the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft – to get his team on the grid.
With that being the case, it is highly unlikely that the team will be able to retain its frontline driving line-up of former series champion Gabriele Tarquini or sports car veteran Nicky Catsburg. The team’s relationship with French driver Hugo Valente dramatically soured towards the end of the season and he was all but expected to leave the championship anyway.
Image via FIA WTCC Media