LADA Sport LUKOIL is determined to overcome the odds and give its passionate and patriotic home fans a cause for celebration.
The Russian round of the championship marks the mid-point of the 2014 WTCC season and there is only one more European halt to come at Belgium’s legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit before the travelling circus flies off to other far-flung destinations.
Set among stunning scenery in the Volokolamsky District, approximately 80km North-West of the city of Moscow, the ultra-modern Moscow Raceway was designed by leading architect Hermann Tilke and is Russia’s first purpose-built race circuit.
The venue hosts the WTCC for the second time in as many years and was responsible for producing perhaps the most exhilarating and intense races of the 2013 season thanks to an extremely low-grip, high-friction track surface.
Teams and drivers headed into the unknown last season and will go into this year’s Race of Russia with prior knowledge and experience of the circuit and, having achieved its best results in dicey conditions, LADA Sport LUKOIL is hopeful that the slippery asphalt will help it draw closer to its Citroen, Chevrolet and Honda rivals.
LADA Sport LUKOIL always receives overwhelming support from the partisan Russian fans, although the Togliatti-based outfit will also have prestigious backing from LADA President, Bo Anderssen, on Sunday, when a presentation of three new LADA road cars – the Granta liftback, Kalina NFR and Kalina Sport – will take place.
Russia’s young hotshot, Mikhail Kozlovskiy, said: "The Russian round is the most important in WTCC calendar for our team. It marks the mid-season and we arrive at this point much better prepared compared to the start of the season - we've already had several races and also two big test sessions, where we've found some interesting solutions that brought us closer to the championship leaders.
“I really like the Moscow raceway’s layout, having driven here not only last year in the WTCC, but also earlier in my career when I was the participant in the Russian Touring Series. Motorsport is loved in Russia, and I hope for the really big support of Russian fans! I invite everyone to come to Moscow Racceway this weekend and support the only Russian team in WTCC!”
Former World Champion Huff has a record of going above and beyond a car’s capabilities and achieved a podium finish on the WTCC’s Russian debut in relatively uncompetitive machinery, following a frenetic five-way fight in the weekend’s second race, which went down as one of the season’s highlights.
“I’m very excited about arriving in Russia, as it’s always nice to be representing a ‘local brand’ and I think last year’s round at Moscow Raceway produced some of the most interesting racing of the season,” said Huff. “It’s a complex circuit, it’s very slippery to the point where it feels like you’re driving in the rain and it has a high-friction surface that punishes tyres. That combination creates a tricky situation for teams and makes for entertaining races and, as LADA Sport LUKOIL has achieved its strongest results in difficult conditions, I hope to reward the home support with some strong finishes this weekend.
“I don’t think you can appreciate how much passion there is for LADA without visiting Russia. It’s a very patriotic country and LADA represents that, so I’m excited to see what sort of welcome we get. The team has done a terrific job to get both mine and James’s car ready and fixed in time after our Salzburgring smash. There was only three days to repair the extensive damage to both cars so it’s a testament to the team’s professionalism and determination that we’re able to compete at Moscow.”
Moscow Raceway doesn’t hold great memories for Thompson, as he was taken out of the running for a potential podium finish in race two while embroiled in an intense battle with Huff, Yvan Muller, Tom Coronel and Gabriele Tarquini.
However, the Briton is proud to represent LADA, a Russian institution, and is fairly confident that the LADA Granta Sport TC1 will at least pose a threat to the potent Citroen, Chevrolet and Honda contingent.
“I’m always very proud to represent LADA on its home soil and I’m really excited about returning to the Moscow Raceway, even though things didn’t necessarily pan out the way I hoped last year,” said Thompson. “Looking back, the five-car battle I was involved in was one of the highlights of the season, although it was so disappointing to be denied the chance of achieving LADA Sport LUKOIL’s maiden podium finish in the WTCC in front of the passionate, patriotic Russian fans. Podiums may not be on the cards this time around, but I think the circuit’s low-grip surface might help our cause and solid points may be achievable.”
LADA Sport LUKOIL