Rickard Rydell is setting himself modest goals to score points in both of Sunday’s World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) races in Russia, in what is his first race meeting since recovering from thyroiditis.
Rydell was forced to miss the WTCC events in Morocco, Hungary and Germany as a result of the illness, which hit him in the build-up to the event in Marrakech.
Since then the experienced touring car driver completed a test at Mantorp Park in Sweden in late May, ahead of his full-time return to the series in Moscow.
The illness also caused the absence of Nika International from the WTCC grid, who were unable to find a replacement Swedish driver with commitments that didn’t clash with the championship.
”It will be great returning to the WTCC grid this weekend; I’ve been waiting for it for a while!” said Rydell. “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.”
Rydell was forced to miss Friday’s test session when the transporter carrying his car was held up in Russian customs for four days.
”Motor racing is still in its infancy in Russia, and it will be interesting to come there and try out the track,” said Rydell, before he missed Friday testing. “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.”
Nika International Team Principal Nicklas Karlsson admits that getting the team back on the pace, given the recent developments to the Honda Civic, will be a challenge.
”First and foremost, we are obviously thrilled to finally be back in the WTCC paddock this weekend,” said Karlsson. “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 [with Michel Nykjær], but we are very much aware of the task at hand and head into this round in a humble frame of mind.”