Aleksei Dudukalo will partner James Thompson in Lada’s entry to the World Touring Car Championship next year.

The Moscow-born driver will pilot one of the Lada Granta Sport models following a tie-up between his long-term sponsor – oil giant Lukoil – and the Russian team.

36-year-old Dudukalo has raced in the WTCC for the past two years as teammate to Gabriele Tarquini in a Lukoil-backed SEAT team, finishing second behind the Italian veteran at the Slovakiaring earlier in 2011.

With Tarquini moving on to a factory Honda seat, Dudukalo will now partner double British and European champion Thompson, 38, who gave the Granta Sport a promising debut in Hungary and Portimao this year.

“I am glad to continue racing in the WTCC, especially because now I have the opportunity to do it for a factory team and in a Russian car,” said Dudukalo. “I hope that James and I will make life difficult for our competitors. I can’t wait to start testing the Lada Granta on the track.”

Evgeny Malinovskiy, head of Lukoil Racing said: “We are in the final stages of the negotiations and close to sign the agreement with Lada Sport. We hope that our support and experience in WTCC will help Lada Sport and that we will be one of the best teams.”

Lada Sport principal Victor Shapovalov commented: “We are pleased to welcome Aleksei, and we are confident he has the potential to achieve very good results in his third season in the World Championship.

“We are very pleased and proud with Lukoil’s decision to support our WTCC programme. The whole team are very motivated and work flat out to develop competitive cars for our drivers. We are very excited looking forward to the start of the season. Testing said that the Granta is a fast car, with a powerful engine.”