• Kyodo


Former Formula One driver Kamui Kobayashi was announced as a full-time driver oi Toyota’s World Endurance Championship team on Thursday, marking his first entry into the premier class of endurance road racing.

The 29-year-old Kobayashi will team up with Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway for Toyota while fellow Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima will share a seat with Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi, both also former F1 drivers.

“Racing in LMP1 will be a new experience for me and I am looking forward to it a lot,” said Kobayashi, who test drove for the team last season. “There will be plenty to learn but I know my teammates will support me and I am sure I can be competitive right from the start.

“Now my focus is on preparing properly for the new season and being absolutely ready for Silverstone.”

Kobayashi, known for his raw speed and fearless overtaking, had 75 starts for three different teams in F1 and has been racing in Japan’s Super Formula series, where he posted two wins last year. He will take the wheel of a new Toyota TS050 Hybrid in the first race of the 2016 season on April 17, while continuing in Super Formula.

“All together, that comes to 16 races and I want to win them all,” Kobayashi said.

Toshio Sato, Toyota’s team president, is confident his team will improve after a disappointing 2015 season in which Porsche and Audi shared the victories at all eight rounds of the championship.

“For the 2016 season we will have a very strong driver lineup. Kamui showed his speed and commitment in testing, so it was a relatively easy decision to select him to replace Alex (Wurz),” Sato said.

“We know he is capable of doing a good job alongside Stephane and Mike. … With this all-new car, 2016 is a big season for us. I believe we have the drivers and the car to succeed.”

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