Aussie called up for W Series finale in bizarre circumstances

Caitlin Wood

Caitlin Wood is a late inclusion for this weekend’s W Series double-header at Circuit of The Americas after a fellow driver was denied entry to the United States.

Russian teenager Irina Sidorkova had been in line to race at the season-ending round, which will act as a support category to Round 17 of the Formula 1 campaign.

However, despite holding a National Interests Exemption, she was unable to secure a visa.

“I was denied a visa to the United States, although I have a status of a National Interests Exemption as a professional athlete,” Sidorkova revealed on social media.

“First I was refused by US embassy at an interview, and later nothing worked out when W Series, F1 and Congressman McCaul’s Office from Texas till yesterday tried to make it work somehow. I appreciate this help a lot and I’m very thankful for that.

“This happens the first time in my life and race career. I am deprived of racing and opportunity to fight for the good points and the prize that I planned to invest in my training.

“I just want to say that I’m proud to be a [Russian] racing driver and I will continue racing whatever it takes.”

Her absence opens the door for reserve driver Wood to return to a race seat.

The Australian has made two appearances so far this year, in Hungary and Spa, placing fifth at the latter.

Sidorkova is not the only driver to have faced difficulty travelling to the US for this weekend’s action, with Ferrari F1 star Charles Leclerc arriving only after an interrupted journey.

“It was just one guy at the airport of Nice that for some reasons didn’t really know what was an NIE and I got stuck there,” said Leclerc.

“He only realised one minute before closing the flight that the NIE was okay but I didn’t have my passenger locator form, so I had to stay in Nice.

“But anyway, it’s no big deal. I could, with the same papers, I could take a plane to New York which helped me visiting the city for the first time.”

Sidorkova, who finished on the podium this year in Austria, is guaranteed a 2022 seat as a member of the W Series Academy.

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