News has emerged that Lada’s team principle, Viktor Shapovalov has reached a deal with the WTCC promotors to run as an independant team for 2017. Lada announced that it would be exiting the series in November, to focus on the Russian Championship. Before becoming the factory Lada team in 2009, the team ran under the name of ‘Russian Bears Racing’. It could be possible that the name could return along with the Vesta TC1 cars.
This would give a big boost to the series, which will see factory efforts from Honda and Volvo race against privateer run Citroen and Chevrolet cars. It was looking as though the grid numbers would fall bellow the series minimum of 16 cars. This prompted the promotors to introduce the WTCC-2 sub-category for slower TC2N cars. However, Shapovalov and his team can bring all three Ladas back for 2017, we could see 16 TC1 cars.
Alan Gow, head of the FIA Touring Car Commission has confirmed that a minimum of 16 TC1 cars will be present on the grid, including the privateer Lada team.
It will be difficult for the team to mount a comeback. With funding from both Lada and title sponsor Rosneft gone, it will be unlikely that the team’s former drivers will return. With the potential lack of funding, front runners such ast Nicky Catsburg and Gabriele Tarquini may look at other options. While Hugo Valente has stated his intent to compete in the TCR International series for 2017. Both have shifted focus to the Russian Circuit Racing Championship running TCR spec Vestas. Also with there no longer being a round in Russia, it may be difficult for the team to attract sponsors from their home country.
It remains to be seen whether the Ladas will be present on the grid in the TC1 class in 2017, or whether the TCR spec cars will find their way into the WTCC-2 category for a one off round.