The LADA Sport LUKOIL racing team will take part in round nine of the FIA World Touring Car Championship this weekend, at the Californian track of Sonoma in the United States of America. It is the second time that Sonoma appears on the WTCC calendar, but only the first time that the LADA Granta team has starred there. This round of the championship benefits from an extra pre-race test session of 30 minutes, and on Friday James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy will try their LADA Granta cars at Sonoma Raceway for the first time, which is well known as a challenging venue.
It’s also a highlight of the WTCC season. At 4.032 kilometres, one of the particular characteristics of this circuit – which dates from 1968 – is its 50-metre elevation change that takes in a number of tricky corners. The track is used 340 days per year and also takes in NASCAR and IndyCar rounds, as well as a number of other car and motorcycle races.
Before the start of the American WTCC round, LADA Sport LUKOIL driver James Thompson, who is currently 15th in the Driver’s Championship with 29 points, took part in a press lunch with local media representatives.
James Thompson said: “I’m really happy to see Sonoma with a permanent place on our calendar. I’ve not yet experienced it personally, but from what I can see do far, the Sonoma layout actually has a few points in common with some of the traditional British tracks that I first started racing on. So ironically, for me it’s a bit like coming home. I watched last year’s amazing WTCC round as a spectator, but this year I have the pleasure and privilege of driving here. It’s an unusual, narrow and twisty track, and the elevation spices things up even more. But really, there are so many aspects of this circuit that constitute a real challenge. So I’m sure we’re going to see some real spectacular racing this weekend. We’re expecting dry and sunny weather, which should enable us to get the maximum out of the car. Because of the popularity of motorsport in the USA, I’m convinced that there will be plenty of spectators too. Sonoma Raceway is well known for hosting NASCAR and conceptually that philosophy is not so different to that of the WTCC, in that the racing cars look like road cars, which allows people to associate them with the cars that they buy in the showroom. It’s always a strong selling point.”
His team mate Mikhail Kozlovskiy added: “Sonoma Raceway isn’t an easy circuit, and it takes time to learn all the different lines and corners. Because of the big elevation changes, a lot of those corners are actually blind, and that’s why some previous experience of the track would definitely be of help here. Sonoma is probably the toughest track that we’ve been to up to now on the WTCC, which gives an idea of the measure of the challenge. But that makes it all the more interesting, and I’m really looking forward to trying out the LADA Granta here for the first time during Friday testing.”