The 2016 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) kicks off in France on 1-3 April and the event will mark the beginning of LADA SPORT ROSNEFT’s second full-time campaign with the LADA Vesta TC1. However, the Russian factory team enters 2016 with a refreshed driver line-up that consists of 2009 WTCC Champion Gabriele Tarquini, multiple podium finisher Hugo Valente and rapid Dutchman, Nicky Catsburg, and the trio all expect a thrilling season.
Gabriele Tarquini: “I’m very pleased to have started working with LADA SPORT ROSNEFT and I am excited about facing a new challenge in 2016. Honestly, the new LADA Vesta surprised me in the first race of 2015 in Argentina and I think the potential is very high. In January, I spent some time testing last year’s car and developing some new software at Magny-Cours. It was wet and only consisted of out and in-laps, but I made some setup changes and felt a difference.
“I can say that the car is very sensitive and there is a lot of potential, but I need more time and miles behind the wheel so I can use my experience to try and improve the car – particularly its speed out of slow corners and drivability. I like going back to every circuit on the calendar, but I’m especially looking forward to revisiting Thailand. The Chang International Circuit is very nice to drive, with extremely fast corners and challenging braking points, and I like the people and the atmosphere they create, with a stadium section close to the track!”
Hugo Valente: “Joining LADA SPORT ROSNEFT is a dream come true! Becoming a factory driver was my aim when I first entered the WTCC two years ago and I would like to thank the team for this opportunity and trusting in me. I’m also very excited about working with my two new teammates, Gabriele and Nicky. It’s going to be great to learn from them and look at data to see where I can improve as a driver. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to compare data and that made progressing much more difficult at times.
“Gabriele has a huge bank of knowledge in terms of engineering and to partner with him is a huge opportunity. Nicky has impressed a lot of people in his first half-season in the WTCC and he showed great pace in qualifying; he’s one of the very top GT drivers and it will be a challenge to compete with both drivers within the same team, but our joint aim is to make LADA stronger so we can all achieve greater results.”
Valente continued: “I think we can get into a few Q3 sessions during the year and achieve a few podiums. The ultimate aim would be to fight for race wins. The LADA Vesta seems really good, the chassis responds to any changes we make and the car is very reactive, which I like. I’m looking forward to testing a few updates LADA SPORT has been working on and I’m eager to revisit all WTCC venues, although my absolute favorite track is the Nürburgring Nordschleife! I’m very much looking forward to going back, as there’s no other circuit like it – it’s pure adrenaline! Russian round should be an interesting one too now for me as a part of the Russian team!”
Nick Catsburg: “I am very much looking forward to beginning a full season with LADA SPORT ROSNEFT and continuing the hard work we started in 2015. With experience came speed and I was particularly quick in qualifying, so I now hope to improve my race pace and translate that potential into results.
“Which tracks am I looking forward to? Well, I have a score to settle with the Vila Real street circuit in Portugal. It’s a tight and very challenging track that tests your limits and I’m up for that challenge! I also really enjoyed the Asian leg of the last year’s championship in China, Japan and Thailand. They are all great places to go racing!”