The Suzuka circuit has been the scene of many historic and iconic events.
The flourishing LADA Sport team is primed for another challenging weekend as the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) heads to the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan, for its penultimate round on the legendary and evocative Suzuka International Circuit (25-26 October).
The Russian manufacturer outfit valiantly overcame a turbulent start to 2014 to become a WTCC podium finisher in Argentina and then an outright race winner as the Asian leg of the season began at Beijing’s Goldenport Park Circuit earlier this month.
Genuine progress has been made and improvements found on the team’s LADA Granta Sport WTCC over the course of the year, and the Togliatti-based LADA Sport team is firmly established as a regular points finisher, as the world’s premier touring car championship arrives on Japanese soil for Rounds 21 and 22 – the penultimate race weekend on the calendar.
We’ve already seen what can be achieved and I want to taste more success.
Located 50km South West of Nagoya, the Suzuka circuit has been the scene of many historic and iconic events and incidents that have gone down in motorsport folklore, giving the track a mystical and iconic status that makes it a favourite among both fans and drivers.
After three years of racing on Suzuka’s abbreviated 2.2km ‘East’ configuration, which provided very few overtaking opportunities, the WTCC will take to the full 5.8km Suzuka International Circuit used for the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix for the very first time this weekend.
LADA Sport’s trio of drivers – Rob Huff, James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy – are all relishing the opportunity of racing on the full-length Suzuka circuit and are targeting more strong points finishes on a track where long straights and protracted turns place the emphasis on aerodynamic efficiency.
Rob Huff said: “I cannot wait to get out on the Suzuka International Circuit, as it’s a legendary racetrack with lots of iconic corners, including the two Degner turns, Spoon Curve and the flat out 130R! It really is a magical place and the show will be much better on the longer Grand Prix layout, although I’m not expecting it to play to the advantage of my LADA Sport team, as the lengthy straights and long corners mean it’s all about aerodynamics and having a high top end.
“Qualifying won’t be as essential as it once was at Suzuka. Being so short, tight and twisty, the Suzuka East Circuit was one place where you really needed to get your act together quickly. Three tenths of a second would be the difference between lining-up in fifth or 15th on the grid and, as overtaking is almost impossible, you could pretty much write off your weekend if you didn’t get up near the sharp end. I’m hoping for better fortunes that I had in Shanghai and to break into the top ten, with the view of nabbing the reversed grid pole position. We’ve already seen what can be achieved and I want to taste more success.”
James Thompson added: "I think that the first and second sectors of the track may be good for us due to the fact it's quite twisty with medium speed changes of direction and not very high top speed, but I think the last part could be very difficult like Shanghai as it's much higher speed. Overtaking wise there should be quite a few opportunities so it could be a fun race and probably hard on tyres. Definitely, it's a lot more interesting than last year’s short track, I think it's much more demanding and I'm very much looking forward to the challenge! I expect really spectacular, action-packed races in Suzuka!”
Mikhail Kozlovskiy: “Suzuka circuit is a legendary racetrack. I am really looking forward to race at the full version of this track. The first sector is a very technical one, the second and the third sectors are quite fast, and the track offers a variety of corners, including famous 130R, so it will be very interesting to drive here. The short 2.2km track was not interesting enough and provided little overtaking opportunities.”