1. Birth of the Lada
VAZ covers 600 hectares duly supervised and surrounded by high grids, 1.8 kilometers long. Inside is a stamping center, a plastics workshop, a test track …
In the streets of Togliatti we can see old panels, such as Avto VAZ forward! Today, VAZ employs 110,000 people.
It is indeed in this formidable industrial complex that will be born 11 years later, on April 5, in the year of grace 1977 the “Niva (Russian for” wheat fields “) VAZ 2121, better known under the name of Lada Niva.
2. In competition
It would be impossible to dissociate the phenomenal commercial success of the Russian SUV from the competitive part it has known and still knows.
Niva’s commitment to competition was immediate. This, thanks to the dynamism of the importer of Avto VAZ vehicles in France, the establishments Poch installed in Argenteuil (95), and more particularly to its representative, Jean-Jacques Poch.
Passionate to the point that we will find him as co-pilot alongside Jacky Ickx at the 1987 and 1988 edition of the Pharaons rally.
In 1979, just one year after its launch, the Niva is in competition, especially in the event that will become the best known in rally raids, the “Paris Dakar”. It will be a year before the Poch establishments officially engage Niva, who owe well to the Belgian pilot Jean-Claude Briavoine and his son Eric, as well as André Trossat.
From this second Dakar, the Nivas will be equipped with only 1.800cc engines prepared by Strakit, until 1983 when the Maurelec engines of 240hp prepared by Marcel Morel will appear. The Niva-Course will also benefit from an extended, reinforced and lightened body, with the addition of polyester opening elements. The suspension has two “Carbon” dampers per wheel.
In 1985, Jean-Pierre Jabouille decided to create a prototype with his friend Jean-Claude Guénard, he will ride with co-driver Michel Sardou.
There will be a total of three unofficial teams engaged. They will be sponsored by VSD and Pastis 51, equipped with V6 PR.V. Central. The Nivas – sorry, the Pastis (their little name … – will start, but will soon give up broken shock absorbers (see “The unfortunate adventure of Pastis in 1985).
If you really want to see a successful Niva in competition, you have to wait until 1986, but especially 1987 and 1988, years of official proto factories: Gerard Marcy, Pierre Lartigue and Jacky Ickx for 1987, then Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Icks still in 1988.
Of all the drivers, the Niçois alone will win five events like rally Tunisia, rally Algeria or Rally Atlas, but also Baja Montes Blancos.
Then, in 1990, will arrive the famous T3, the “Samaras”.
Unanimously, the Niva VAZ remains the 4×4 of the century.
Jean-Jacques Poch: “It was the first real off-road vehicle that is cheap and robust, before there were only heavy military vehicles. “
The Niva had three major motorization stages: first, the engines of Niva VAZ 2121 pushed to 150 hp for maximum preparation, then the following prototypes with the Maurelec 240 hp carburetor! and finally came the famous R.O.C engine, 2.5 l, 16-valve engine, allowing speeds up to 240 km / h.
On the other hand, the race created by Thierry Sabine will never smile at the small Soviet 4×4, but what is important, than victories on African rallies!
4. The real Lada Poch
Returning to the beginning of the “real” Lada Poch equipped with engines of R.O.C. power of 280 hp (310 with the Avgaz), these new Niva are able to exceed 200 km / h! at top speed, they exceeded the famous 205 T 16.
The first event in 1986 is obviously the Dakar, with two cars entered: one entrusted to the brothers Marreaux (No. 197) and the other to Pierre Lartigue and his co-driver Bernard Giroux (No. 198). They will finish fourth overall.
Then, during the same year 1986, Pierre Lartigue will start with co-driver R. Ponte at the rally of Tunisia and win the event. Then in Baja Aragon in 1986 Pierre Lartigue, associated with G. Rahier, will finish second.
Finally, at the last international event of 1986, the rally of the Pharaohs a new driver will make his entry, Jacky Ickx, who will remain for two years to follow one of the official drivers on Niva Lada Poch.