The Journalists' Cup copies the format of the annual Christmas Champions Race, which has been taking place since 1996. We take part in synchronized starts in the purpose-built west. Everyone drives the same route. Parallel paths cross over the bridge.
At Drive's invitation, of course, I immediately agreed to take part in the Journalists' Cup. We are waiting for the legendary three-dimensional race track in Sosnovka, seven hundred and five hundred horsepower west on a training millimeter … But one thing – I have been driving with rear-wheel drive for five years and have forgotten how to drive with front wheel. Maybe he didn't know how, but now you know. Daily city kilometers on a personal Civic Si 2.0 (160 hp) do not count: it works without blocking and on civilian tires. Everything is different in racing.
The 2.8 km route on the training site in Sosnovka was designed by rally driver Stepan Vasiliev. Whatever the curve is, a descent or a steep climb. There are jumps and two straight lines where Vesta comes in fifth gear. Roll decides here. It is not surprising that factory drivers Kirill Ladygin, Mikhail Mityaev or Dmitry Bragin win here more often than others.
A classic car is easy to handle: wherever the steering wheels look, it is also where the rear axle slides. And with a sports spike on ice that has no slip at all. And nothing to balance yourself. The main thing is not to repeat. But what do you do with the front-wheel drive Vesta? If there is a differential lock, you can theoretically turn the steering wheel somewhere towards the inner curb under the throttle. But at what angle?
Compare. The rear-wheel-drive Mazda MX-5 of the MX5Cup ice series follows the trajectory defined by the steering wheel. In Vesta, on the same Michelin tire with 384 spikes, the wheels are not aimed at the skid, but in the curve.
The racing drivers of the Lada Sport factory team help us to make ourselves comfortable. To get to know the shocking route, I bring a passenger to the winner of the Russian ring cup Vladimir Sheshenin. Its main point is to wait. At the entrance to the curve, the Vesta, with a weight of 1110 kg, turns perfectly under gas and allows you to go through an arc with a smaller turning angle of the steering wheel, which means faster. It is no coincidence that Sheshenin is the first of four factory pilots that day.
Salon neatly assembled. The front panel is covered with a herd so as not to dazzle. In the hands of journalists, Vesta has suffered damage to drives and gears, my engine has blown, there was even a revolution.
The Journalists' Cup takes place for the first time. The 18 participants included winners of the stages of the Cup of Russia in the areas of circuit racing, rallying, rallying cross-country and even drift. And I've only seen most of the series on TV and in magazines. Or what it is: For example, I have to measure myself against a veteran of the ring, the USSR champion Mikhail Gorbachev, from whose books I learned the theory of driving!
"I am an ordinary retiree who started with a rear wheel drive without spikes for the last time 33 years ago," says Gorbachev. Then he admits that he trained at the Logan Rally. Ends with the eighth of 18 participants. Not bad for 64 years!
For one thing, driving a car is also scary. Second, it turns out that in the 2000-4000 rpm range, the modified engine is not satisfied, then it begins to pull sharply, and the maximum of 175 Nm is only available at 6200 rpm. If you step on the accelerator carelessly at the beginning, you can dig a hole in the ice without much progress. And when you start and drive in slow corners, you have to play with the clutch. In general, the cam box should change without pushing, but the drivers themselves use the third pedal and we are asked. And the drive cable is stretched, which extends the circuit upwards.
Changing the tire pressure is prohibited. In general, you can only customize the landing. Even at a height of 180 cm, only the hood and the clouds are visible to me. When he started placing a pillow on the seat, the results improved. Such a coating, as in the hilly Sosnovka, is usually only found on shallow lakes.
In the usual sense, you only slow down in a few places, and in most cases you use slides to erase the speed. Vesta has no problems with that. It's not at all special for demolishing the front axle, but at the slightest delivery of gasoline, as I've already noticed from the passenger, a spectacular drift begins. If the angle is not enough, I try to accelerate the Lada according to the habit of rear-wheel drive, and if it doesn't work, I grab the handbrake. Now Sheshenin is already sitting on the right and practically slaps his hands, and if necessary he pulls the handle. Oh, I hope after these words, the organizers will not cancel my results!
Atmosphere 1.6 has at least 170 hp. thanks to the wide-phase waves from the motor for the touring light series. The intake and exhaust channels, valves and the camshaft bed are modified in the head of the block. The Kalina NFR intake manifold is the gold standard for tuning 16-valve engines. The polyurethane transfer pad was developed to reduce the incline of the unit.
The front adjustable shock absorbers are specially designed for this track. Behind – Demfi: They differ from the series in that they set the rigidity and the stroke. Brakes on the left as standard. Only the hydraulic circuits instead of the diagonal circuit are separated along the axes, and a compensation regulator is installed.
Gas, gas! – Sheshenin shouts: "Slow down now!" Vesta flies inexorably to a snow tip. Waiting for a hit. But no: Quietly pushed off the parapet, taken abruptly, standing on the trajectory. Sheshenin is all calculated. For the first time in winter, remember to brake with your left foot: if you don't release the gas completely while pressing the middle pedal, the front-wheel drive car will turn around its axis.
You always have to keep in mind that slingshots cannot be knocked down mechanically by the wheel like any other person. At the same time, I steer the front wheels onto the inner parapet and follow it so as not to unscrew them from close range – this slows down the Vesta. Gently accelerate and try to keep the steering wheel straight as early as possible.
It is necessary to touch the snow parapet at the entrance to the curve and use it as a brake. However, each touch of the output means a loss of time. In addition to Sheshenin, I drove a few drivers. Mikhail Mityaev said: "You pull the bike like a drug addict," and Andrei Petukhov remained silent throughout the race.
During a semi-final against the winner of the Russian Rally Cross Championship, Denis Suvorov, Vest suddenly loses speed, stops and smoke escapes under the hood. "It's over," I hear Sheshenin speak. We're in love with Niva on a sport spike, and the dashing towing makes me worse than in a racing taxi. In contrast to the Race of Champions, in which a broken car is no excuse for losses, we are allowed to run again, which leads to the final.
In every car – various non-standard instrument combinations. The ESP shutdown button remained on the center console, although there are no assistants including ABS.
Vesta, where I have to fight for victory with the fastest auto journalist Vladimir Melnikov, is not the same as the others. It pulls well at medium speed, but not particularly at the top. Melnikov himself used to tell me everything about her. And now I'm doing exactly what he said: 3000 rpm, gently let go of the clutch … The final goes to two wins. In the first race I win one and a half seconds, in the second after exchanging cars and tracks with a lead of only 34 thousandths.
Vladimir Sheshenin (right) gave me a good time in just four training circles. The main thing is to believe the mentor and do what he says, even if it appears that this is beyond the mind.
Not so unexpected. From the quarterfinals I drove Melnikov for a second or two. In addition, Sheshenin and I got used to each other and Volodya's passengers kept changing. The secret of success, however, was not the speed itself, but the stability. If you come to a more or less even result, you have to go as before at the crucial moment. Repeat carefully what you did. A typical mistake of a novice driver is to race faster than in training or qualifying. This leads to gross errors. And above all, confidence and peace are required in synchronized races.
Maxim Akhtyamov photo by author Artyom Achkasov, Anton Mikhailov and Lada Sport