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Lada's WTCC future uncertain, says team boss

Lada Sport Rosneft team boss Viktor Shapovalov has confirmed that the Russian marque's continued participation in the World Touring Car Championship is far from a given.

MAC3 Qualifying, Gabriele Tarquini, LADA Sport Rosneft, Lada Vesta; Hugo Valente, LADA Sport Rosneft, Lada Vesta; Nicky Catsburg, LADA Sport Rosneft, Lada Vesta
Viktor Shapovalov, Team manager Lada Sport Rosneft
Viktor Shapovalov, Lada Sport, Lada 110 2.0
Gabriele Tarquini, LADA Sport Rosneft, Lada Vesta
Hugo Valente, LADA Sport Rosneft, Lada Vesta
Gabriele Tarquini, LADA Sport Rosneft, Lada Vesta
Hugo Valente, LADA Sport Rosneft, Lada Vesta
Nicky Catsburg, LADA Sport Rosneft, Lada Vesta
Hugo Valente, LADA Sport Rosneft, Lada Vesta
Gabriele Tarquini, LADA Sport Rosneft, Lada Vesta

Lada first entered WTCC with a factory effort for what would be a one-off season in 2009, before returning for good in 2013.

After Rob Huff gave the Lada Granta two wins in 2014, the team has run the all-new Lada Vesta since last year - but Shapovalov, himself a former WTCC driver, has now admitted a change in parent company AvtoVAZ's management leaves the team's future uncertain.

Asked whether Lada would remain on the WTCC grid in 2017, Shapovalov told Motorsport.com: "That's impossible to predict. It'll be interesting to see the new AvtoVAZ management's stance on motorsport.

"Lada isn't in the best financial shape, which is also having an impact. I hope that we'll at least get a definite answer in time - either a 'yes' or a 'no'. That's probably most important right now."

Shapovalov said, however, that despite some mixed results in the first half of the season, Lada's progress was evident.

"This year, as far as the car is concerned, we've moved forward signifnicantly. We now have a different philosophy in working with the set-up and a lot of new elements. We have not been making mistakes this year in terms of tech - but just in terms of tech.

"So far, we've not excelled in races - there's a lot of chaos and we allow, as they say in tennis, 'unforced errors'. And we get quite a few of them, which is why we lose a noticeable amount of points.

"It's a pity but, on the other hand, previously we didn't count lost points at all. Now we have a different approach, and we're trying to be a lot more consistent."

Drivers want to stay

It is understood that of Lada's three drivers, Hugo Valente and Gabriele Tarquini are both on one-year deals, and the same is believed to be true for Nick Catsburg.

Asked about continuing with Lada in 2017, Catsburg told Motorsport.com: "I hope to stay. I don't expect anything at the moment, it's still quite early, but I hope to stay.

Valente, meanwhile, told Motorsport.com: "With Lada, I would be very happy to keep going with them. They're proving at the moment that they can improve and develop their car in the right way.

"If I stay here next year, I don't know, I hope so. I think it depends more on me than on the team, in terms of performance. If they don't want to keep me because my performances are not good enough, they don't have to keep me - which is the same for everyone.

"I'm not too worried about the future - I think Viktor is happy with all the drivers he has, just have to be consistent and make good results."

Additional reporting by Aleksander Kabanovsky

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