Bees love ice: how to get behind the wheel of a racing Lada

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Orange cars hum their engines loudly and unkindly, like a disturbed swarm of bees. The track in Sosnovka is pure ice, it is difficult to walk on it, let alone drive. The Cup of Journalists is held according to the rules of the real Race of Champions. The Izvestia correspondent got behind the wheel of a racing Vesta for the first time and checked whether it was possible to learn how to drive fast in two days.

Ice specification

Sanctions, a shortage of components, the departure of foreign companies… but the races at the AvtoVAZ training ground in Sosnovka are on schedule. This time it was necessary to compete on tires with a “combat” 4.5 mm spike.

The Race of Champions has been held since the mid-nineties. At first they competed on prepared “eights”, then on exotic Lada 110 Coupes, on nimble Kalina NFR. A few years ago, Vestas prepared by the Lada Sport Rosneft team drove along the track in Sosnovka.

Photo: Lada

The recipe for preparing a special vehicle is as follows: a body from Vesta with a frame, a modified reinforced suspension, a rigid cross-axle lock and a cam gearbox. The engine is from Kalina NFR with a volume of 1.6 liters and a power of over 170 hp, flavored with racing oil from the title sponsor and fueled with high-octane gasoline from the title sponsor.

The new “Vesta” is not for everyone

Last year, ice cars received bodies from the updated Vesta NG. And with them LED headlights, which are more expensive than before, although AvtoVAZ representatives found it difficult to name the exact price. There are some additions, says the commercial director of Lada Sport and part-time director of competitions in Sosnovka Maxim Ostudin. For example, the engine torque was shifted to medium speed and a shorter gearshift mechanism was used.

Photo: Lada

The sports “Vesta” weighs a little more than a ton, and radical relief was achieved without the use of composite body parts. The road Vesta Sport has plastic fenders, but only to cover the wider wheels. Ice cars have standard bodies with steel front fenders, smaller wheels and narrower tires.

She doesn’t need ABS.

Kirill Ladygin leads a walking tour of the track and explains in detail all the turns. It seems that here he knows every millimeter – it’s not for nothing that he became the winner eight times and only this year lost to the rising star Vladimir Sheshenin. Many journalists who will become racers listen to him with disbelief. The trip with one of the pilots of Lada Sport Rosneft in the navigational chair did not add to the enthusiasm – a pure attraction, especially when you see only the sky when you take off to the bridge.

Now it is the turn of the Izvestia correspondent to drive the 170-horsepower Vesta. The car was freed from everything that is not useful in the race – a multimedia system, door cards, even ABS and ESP.

Photo: Lada

“We do not experience problems with components, since the car is localized as much as possible, and it does not need ABS and ESP,” explained Vladislav Nezvankin, head of the Lada Sport Rosneft racing team.

At the same time, the front panel is pasted over with flock, and the lining on it is either carbon fiber or painted under it. Racing chic.

Based on a snowdrift

The bucket chair is nowhere stiffer, the five-point belt is tightened so that you can’t breathe. A small shiver runs through the body from the engine, and from its rumble you can hardly hear the navigator, you have to ask him to turn the intercom volume knob.

Starting is a whole art: first you need to spin the engine up to 4000 rpm (someone advises keeping 5000 rpm), then slowly release the clutch so that the spiked wheels catch on the ice, and then gas! The track winds endlessly, it seems that you are going fast, I choose the trajectories correctly, you follow the instructions of the navigator, but the timing is inexorable – I drove badly. All Ladygin’s explanations mixed up in his head into a mess.

Photo: Lada

It is behind the wheel that it feels like time flies ten times faster, on the video replay – a large, with a massive trunk and a solid wheelbase, the Vesta floats mockingly slowly.

The rival on the parallel track rode sweepingly, clung to the snow parapets and showed the best time – a hard snowdrift allows you to lean on it and not lose momentum, and the car will endure everything. The ice Vesta drives in a specific way – the brakes are tuned with an emphasis on the rear axle in order to turn the car.

In the next races, I managed to roll in and improve my own result by more than 30 seconds by the second qualification. Thanks to the navigators, who will help with advice and turn the car with a handbrake.

Rise with a coup

The next day we had to race along a freshly flooded track. And I had to learn again. I hesitated at the start, mixed up the gear (the lever is really short-stroke), and then error after error went on. At one point, I almost lost my car and thought I would finish the race on the roof. The second race again gave way to a more experienced pilot. But on the third, thanks to Vladimir Melnikov from Autoreview, who participated in the competition along with professional racers as a navigator, he was able to beat the opponent.

Photo: Lada

This was not enough to go further, but the newcomer had no chance there. The pace was set by those who have more than one “Cup of Journalists” behind them. Not without a spectacular coup on the roof. However, here Vesta showed strength and saved the pilot and navigator from serious injuries.

Sport for every day

The Sosnovka track can turn a skeptic into a Lada fan and an avid racer. Historically, the sporting successes of automobile brands are converted into achievements on public roads. Cars are becoming more reliable, faster, better controlled. So far, the civilian line of road cars produced by Lada Sport has been rather modest: Lada Vesta Sport and Lada Granta Drive Active. And even now there is no time for fat – the Vesta renewed in Tolyatti will initially receive an eight-valve engine in general.

Photo: Lada

Nevertheless, AvtoVAZ is preparing a whole sports family of Vesta with varying degrees of charge, said Sergey Kornienko, head of AvtoVAZ product marketing.

“We will show a special car at Baikal, it will be a kind of teaser of the new model,” he said.

Vladislav Nezvankin, in turn, confirmed the appearance of Niva Sport:

— It will be a more dynamic car with different consumer properties.

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