There are auto marques you'd associate with racing and those you wouldn't. Names like Audi, Porsche, Nissan, Ferrari, Ford and Chevy would fall firmly in the former category. Lada... slightly less so. The Russian automaker is remembered (when it is remembered, anyway) for its no-frills, Soviet-era automobiles – many of which it's still making today. Hardly the kind of machinery you'd want to take to the racetrack, but Lada and its parent company AvtoVAZ set out to upset that notion when it entered the World Touring Car Championship back in 2008. The Rusisan team has yet to score a single podium finish in the five years since, but is aiming to distinguish itself this season with the new Granta TC1.

Replacing the previous Granta 1600T that was built to the old S2000 specifications, the new Granta TC1 is still nominally based on the production Granta, which itself is based on the Kalina that has been in production for ten years now. That actually strikes us as a relatively new architecture for Lada, considering that the Niva has been around since the 1970s. The short wheelbase packs a 1.6-liter turbo four tuned by the racing gurus at Oreca, a name you may (or may not) recognize for running Toyota's current LMP1 program, previously fielding the Peugeot 908 or developing the previous Dodge Viper for competition.

Lada Sport just took its new tin-top racer for its first shake-down at the Magny-Cours circuit that used to host the French Grand Prix, and will take it for one more before the start of the season next month in Morocco. Lighter, more aerodynamic and more powerful, the new Granta TC1 ought to do a better job of holding its own against the likes of the new Honda Civic WTCC and Citroën C-Elysée (as well as the new TC1-spec Cruze which Chevy is developing) - or at least give 2012 champion Robert Huff and two-time BTCC champ James Thompson (as well as Russian driver Mikhail Kozlovskiy) a fighting chance.
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17.03.14
LADA Sport LUKOIL completed first tests of 2014-spec Granta TC1

LADA Sport LUKOIL tested its brand new LADA Granta TC1 World Touring Car for the first time last week (13-14 March), with the team's two British drivers – Rob Huff and James Thompson – taking the wheel of the new 2014-spec racer at Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours.

Dry and sunny conditions allowed the burgeoning Russian team to knuckle down and complete a full programme of testing and development work over the course of the two days.

The layout of the historic and evocative Magny-Cours circuit – the former home of the Formula 1 French Grand Prix – with its high-speed straights and an eclectic array of corners was the ideal venue for the new generation LADA Granta's track debut.

Huff – the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Champion – and double British Touring Car Champion, James Thompson, gave high praise to the levels of car preparation, its increased speed, power and straight-line performance, as well as its cornering capabilities.

LADA Sport LUKOIL Team Principal Victor Shapovalov commented: "The team did a great job to make a car in compliance with new technical rules. The LADA Granta TC1 is completely different to its predecessor – both in terms of new parts and elements and in terms of the whole approach to car building from the point of geometry. We widely used the experiences we gained during the previous season, but more flexible technical rules allowed us to make the car more competitive due to some innovative suspension development solutions.

"At the same time, the advantages of the Granta's short wheelbase are still with us – in particular, its maneuverability. With the advent of the new regulations, we have been able to solve some problems we experienced in 2013, while retaining the core benefits of the base car. The new engine, made by LADA Sport LUKOIL's partner ORECA, gives the car even more potential. In particular, the acceleration at the corner exits has improved significantly. On the whole, the team is satisfied with the first shakedown. The primary objective was to ensure all of the car's systems were working in harmony, given the enormously increased engine and braking performance. The initial runs confirmed that the team has managed to find the best balance of the car."

LADA Sport LUKOIL will carry out one more test session before the start of the 2014 FIA WTCC season, with all three drivers – Huff, Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy in attendance.

The season starts on the Circuit Moulay El Hassan in Marrakesh (12-13 April) and LADA Sport LUKOIL can confirm that its drivers will run with the following numbers – 11 (James Thompson), 12 (Rob Huff) and 14 (Mikhail Kozlovskiy) – for the duration.


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