WTCC General Manager Francois Ribeiro has warned that Lada's new Dutch duo Jaap van Lagen and Nick Catsburg will need to show they’re at the “top level” or risk “not staying very long” at the Russian marque.
Ribeiro was speaking at a press conference ahead of this weekend’s round of the series at the Moscow Raceway, where for the first time a Russian driver will not be on the grid after Lada reportedly terminated the contract of Mikhail Kozlovskiy, replacing him this weekend with sports car expert Nick Catsburg.
Jaap van Lagen had already taken the reins of the team’s second Lada Vesta from James Thompson at the last round at the Nurburgring, after Thompson was dropped halfway through the race weekend at the Hungaroring at the beginning of May.
“Lada has invested a lot to design, develop and test a new car to be closer to the rest of the field. When you see so much effort and resource has gone into this car for three factory drivers you must have three top drivers,” said Ribeiro.
“You cannot win the championship with one top driver and two others who are two or three seconds off the pace,” he added.
“It’s a world championship and you have to earn your seat. This is the top level of touring car racing. Yes James Thompson has been amazing for touring cars and the WTCC but it came to a point where Lada had to change and they are looking for the best possible options.
“They replaced James and Mikhail with two Dutch drivers and I guarantee that if they are not on the pace they will not stay for very long because they have to look for the best possible drivers to perform at the top level.
“This is a world championship and it’s a tough world. Being Russian or having 20 years of experience in motorsport is just not enough.”
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes