The "Christmas Race of Champions" held by AvtoVAZ and the Lada Sport team every year brings together the strongest racers from various disciplines who compete on the synchronized ice track of the factory testing ground. This year, Lada decided to hold one more race of the same kind - for auto journalists. I had a chance to participate in this competition.
What is Race of Champions
The first race took place in 1996. Over the years, over a hundred Champions of Russia and Europe have taken part in it. Sergey Alyasov, Kirill Ladygin, Alexey Dudukalo, Boris Shulmeister, Vladimir Cherevan, Egor Orudzhev, Dmitry Bragin, Vitaly Petrov, Alexey Lukyanyuk, Mikhail Aleshin, Sergey Uspensky and many others.
The race has its own specifics - success in another discipline does not guarantee anything. Inkar with Kirill Ladygin's passage with Vitaly Petrov at the navigator's place shows the latter's big eyes. “Why didn't you say that it would be so scary? - I told!"
In the 2019 race, neither the European Rally Champion Lukyanuk, nor the multiple Russian Rally Champion Uspensky, nor the former F1 driver Petrov could oppose anything to the drivers of the factory Lada Sport team. The first was the six-time winner of this race Kirill Ladygin, the second - the Champion of Russia in rally-cross Yegor Sanin, the third - the Champion of Russia in circuit races Mikhail Mityaev.
The cars of all the participants are the same, in fact, these are three pairs of identical Lada Vesta specially prepared for ice racing. We are talking about the usual Vesta, not the Vesta Sport, which can be clearly seen from the standard front fenders and bumpers.
Under the hood is the 21805-37 (R1) engine. 1.6 liter displacement, 16 valves, modified intake and exhaust manifolds (no catalysts!), 63 mm straight-through exhaust, humped shafts, 52 mm throttle, a special program - all this increases the output to 170 l / s at 6800 rpm and 175 Nm at 5200 rpm. For those who think that this is not enough, I am sending you to reread the post by Sergey Sudarev about myths in motorsport.
The check point is a cam five-stage, mounted in a standard VAZ mechanics body. The main pair is 5.4, the gear ratios are respectively 2.667 / 1.933 / 1.538 / 1.316 / 1.143. The diameter of the ceramic clutch disc is 200 mm. Reinforced drive. Differential - increased friction, in other words, self-block.
Demfi dampers and springs are special for winter track racing. The rear beam has been reinforced and the braking system has also been modified. There are two separate circuits (front-back), the pressure in the rear circuit can be adjusted. Otherwise, the brakes are the same as on a regular Vesta.
The body is lightened and reinforced, a homologated roll cage, sports seats, belts, steering wheel, dashboard, meeting room, window nets and so on are installed. The engine compartment is protected by a powerful aluminum protection. Michelin tires - 1.5 mm training stud. The curb weight of the vehicle is 1090 kg.
The track in Sosnovka consists of two parallel trajectories with a length of 3300 m. The ice cover is 20 cm thick.
This is not visible in the photo from the copter, but the track not only abounds in turns of various steepness, but also has a three-dimensional relief. Slopes, climbs, jumps, jumps …
All this makes driving on the track incredibly exciting and interesting.
Race scheme The format of the race is identical to the international ROC, Race of Champions. The race consists of qualifying and final runs on parallel tracks. The first day is qualification, the second is arrivals. Despite the rather high safety of the track, the organizers did not dare to send the journalists alone to the track - experienced Lada Sport racers became navigators and instructors. Kirill Ladygin, Mikhail Mityaev, Vladimir Sheshenin, Mikhail Grachev.
Each of the participants in the Journalists' Cup has two training runs, then qualification, and the next day - qualifying heats and the final for the fastest.
How it was To be
honest, although I several times got into prizes at impromptu competitions on various test drives, I have never tried myself in real motorsport. And the fact that this is not just pokatushki is indicated not only by the roar of the engines, resonating in the body, devoid of sound insulation.
One of my rivals was Mikhail Gorbachev - USSR champion in road-circuit auto racing, now a motorsport coach and author of many books about driving
The belts are firmly attracted to the chair, idling - in the region of two thousand. The voice of the navigator sounds in the helmet. It's not easy to get under way in a racing Vesta - you let go of the clutch at idle, and the engine will cough and won't move. Press the gas too hard - and the car, instead of starting, stands still, digging ice with thorns, under the roar of the engine and the blinking of multi-colored lights on the panel.
Mityaev explains: you need to get under way from 3000-3500 rpm, smoothly releasing the clutch. I do everything super slow, and it still doesn't work! "I said smoothly, and you throw it!" The racing Vesta's pedal response is much sharper than any civilian car, and it takes some getting used to.
The first run is an attempt to get used to the car's reactions to steering, to reset and press the gas. It is important not to throw the gas where it is already very scary, for example, at the entrance to a long "hippodrome" turn, or on a springboard. By the end of the second race, something starts to work out …
Start. The first, the second before the cutoff, the third… through the "hippodrome" turn we continue to accelerate. Towards the end of the arc - the second, throttle release, steering wheel turn … the car begins to turn aft, slide the rear wheels. At that moment, when the sliding slows down slightly, and the car gets on the trajectory, we straighten the steering wheel, simultaneously the gas to the floor. It is necessary to make the brain realize that between the apexes, instead of arcs of turns, there are straight lines, like the shortest distances between points.
The diff lock and training spike are suddenly taken out. The brake on the track is needed only in a couple of places, in other cases, a short throttle release and a turn of the steering wheel are enough to change the course. And gas-gas-gas!
There is a wide margin for mistakes. He pressed the gas early on the turned wheels, when the car was still drifting towards the breastwork - he smacked it with a boch with relish. I cut off the trajectory - I did not have time for the next bend, I stuck into the parapet, made ears (like my colleague Yuri Uryukov during training runs).
In general, you need to understand that a sports car is a consumable. For two days we had one roof, one blown up motor, several cut off drives, two burst standard gearbox housings.
Photo of the overturned car was made by the author of the trick
To return an overturned car to its original state, it will need to be completely disassembled and taken to straightening and painting - the frame was not damaged. But it takes mechanics about five minutes to replace a discouraged drive.
He didn’t twist, lost heart, switched to the next gear much earlier than the cutoff (8500 rpm) - he lost in speed to his opponent. I mixed up the gear, stuck the first instead of the third - the engine exploded …
The racing Vesta has shown itself to be a very obedient car, an excellent tool for honing sports prowess. Considering the non-global scale of the improvements, you understand that Avtovaz really did a great job creating Vesta. Lucky car!
Two practice runs, one qualifying, the next morning a race. I frankly failed the qualification, so I ended up in a strong group - a potential prize-winner, deputy chief editor of Auto.mail.ru, an enthusiastic rally driver Yuri Uryukov, and a well-known race car driver in the past, and now the author of books on driving, sports driving coach Mikhail Georgievich Gorbachev.
At a three-minute distance, I lost to Uryukov one and a half seconds, almost a second to Gorbachev; Quite enough not to make it to the 1/8 finals. Video of my shame:
It's time to take off your helmet and overalls, and retrain as a photographer. Fortunately, I still had to test the new E-M1X from Olympus.
During the final races, almost all the participants got close to each other. The tension grew, the participants went faster, they made mistakes. Several turns of the track were dug to the ground, and the track from the ice began to resemble a rally-cross. But the hold increased, it became possible to push from the parapet …
The main intrigue closer to the final consisted of a competition between two experienced racers - Maxim Akhtyamov axmax and Vladimir Melnikov from AutoReview. Maxim, for whom I was rooting, still snatched a victory, Uryukov became the third, the fourth - the master of sports, an experienced rallycross racer Denis Suvorov.
The first pancake is lumpy
My first experience in motorsport was not very successful from a sports point of view - I did not have enough experience. What was taught in the courses of the contrarian has a very indirect relationship to sports driving in a racing car. Training spikes and diff blocking change the way the car behaves on ice.
Passion for beautiful slides does not help to cut tenths and hundredths - rather the opposite. But on the other hand, it can be argued that in the soundproof, rigid body of a sports car, you begin to understand the laws of physics much better. And this, perhaps, is the key knowledge for any car driving - both sports and civil.
Text and photo: Artem Achkasov