Nicola Larini has revealed that he expects the layout at Okayama to be a good one for Chevrolet heading into the penultimate round of the World Touring Car Championship season.
This weekend's event will be the first WTCC event on Japanese soil, with a number of home drivers set to join the grid for the race as team's seek to collect as much knowledge as possible for the event.
While Chevrolet will again run a fourth car for Manabu Orido, it will also be able to count on Larini to provide some experience as he raced at the venue – then known as T1 Aida – back in 1994 during the Pacific Grand Prix; although he failed to finish the event having qualified in a solid seventh place for Ferrari.
Larini admitted he was excited about making a return to the Japanese circuit and said the technical nature of the Okayama lay-out should play to the strengths of the Lacetti.
“I like going back to the Okayama track where I raced in Formula 1 back in 1994,” he said. “I think I'm possibly the only current WTCC driver to have raced there before, other than the Japanese of course.
“It's quite technical, just the way our Chevrolet Lacetti likes it. I am of course running heavier than I have done so far this season, so my main aim will be to be consistent and still score points in both races. The key at Okayama is to look after your car, as the tight corners are hard on the brakes, especially the hairpin at the end of the back straight. Since the track is rather short, we have to run many more laps than usual. So during the race the head will have to work as hard as the feet.”
If recent form is anything to go by, Larini's team-mate Alain Menu should stand a good chance of success, having proved to be the man to beat on new circuits when they have joined the WTCC calendar in the past.
“I'm quite looking forward to discovering a new track again, and I hope to score some good results there,” he said. “I watched some race footage on YouTube
, and from what I have seen the corners are mainly of the tight variety, which is good for me since I'm running very light. Qualifying will thus be crucial.”