Rickard Rydell is finally returning to the paddock for this weekend’s WTCC Race of Russia at Moscow Raceway.
Having been forced to sit out the last three rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, Honda Racing team Sweden and Rickard Rydell are finally returning to the paddock for this weekend’s WTCC Race of Russia at Moscow Raceway.
Rydell has been recovering from illness since he was hit with thyroiditis in the build-up to the second round of the season in Marrakech in mid-April, but completed two positive days of testing at Mantorp Park in Sweden last week and is now cleared for a return to WTCC action in Moscow. The Mantorp Park test also saw the team evaluate new technical components from Swedish high-performance suspension manufacturer Öhlins.
This weekend’s races in Russia take place exactly three months on from the season-opening round in Argentina, which marked Honda Racing team Sweden’s debut WTCC appearance. Rydell scored points in both of the two races contested in South America.
• Despite a career spanning more than 25 years of international competition, this is Rickard Rydell’s first-ever race on Russian soil. It is only in recent years, however, that motorsport has found its feet in the country, which also hosts a Formula 1 Grand Prix in the Olympic city of Sochi since 2014.
• Russia is the largest country in the world. It also boosts Europe’s longest river (Volga) and the world’s deepest freshwater lake (Lake Baikal).
• Moscow Raceway was designed by respected circuit architect Hermann Tilke and opened in 2012. The WTCC first visited the track a year later in 2013, when Honda Racing team Sweden co-initiator NIKA Racing made history by winning one of the two races staged.
• There is one Russian team on the 2015 WTCC grid; Lada. The squad’s driver line-up features 2012 WTCC champion Rob Huff (UK), as well as Dutchmen Jaap van Lagen and Nick Catsburg.
Rickard Rydell (driver): ”It will be great returning to the WTCC grid this weekend; I’ve been waiting for it for a while! I am feeling a lot better, and I got quickly up to speed at Mantorp Park last week. It was a very good test, actually, and we found some things on the set-up that will definitely improve the general performance of the car and make it better suited to the way I drive.
”Motor racing is still in its infancy in Russia, and it will be interesting to come there and try out the track. I have never driven it before, but I have obviously prepared as best I can by watching on-board footage and spending time on the simulator. Sitting out three rounds inevitably means we have lost ground, but the other Hondas have taken a step forward in recent races – and that can only be a positive for us. It won’t be easy, but the aim is to qualify inside the top ten and to score points in both races on Sunday.”
Nicklas Karlsson (team principal): ”First and foremost, we are obviously thrilled to finally be back in the WTCC paddock this weekend. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude towards the WTCC and our partners for their continued understanding and support in what has been a highly unfortunate situation for us.
”In pure sporting terms, we unquestionably face a tough challenge. We have missed three out of four rounds, and many valuable development opportunities. Our main priority, however, has been to give Rickard the time he has needed to recuperate. We will continue to do that, but we were very pleased to see how well last week’s test at Mantorp Park went. While it confirmed Rickard’s progress to the extent of him being able to race this weekend, it also allowed us to evaluate some innovative technical solutions in cooperation with Öhlins. We will strive to verify those findings this weekend.
“We have good memories of Moscow Raceway, with our victory there in 2013, but we are very much aware of the task at hand and head into this round in a humble frame of mind.”
Honda Racing team Sweden