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Toyota Confirms Kobayashi in WEC Lineup

Kamui Kobayashi joins Toyota’s full-season WEC lineup…

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Kamui Kobayashi becomes Toyota Gazoo Racing’s second test and reserve driver to be promoted to a race drive in as many years, as the Japanese driver was confirmed as the sixth full-season race driver for the team in the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season.

Mike Conway was promoted last year, replacing Nicolas Lapierre.

Kobayashi will take over for the retired Alexander Wurz in the same car, alongside Conway and Stephane Sarrazin in one of the new Toyota TS050 Hybrids.

“I’m really excited to be an LMP1 race driver and I would like to thank Toyota for this opportunity,” Kobayashi said. “I tested the TS040 Hybrid a few times and it was a seriously impressive car; the power of the hybrid system in particular was amazing.

“Now I can’t wait to see what the new car feels like; I am sure it will be a big step forward and put us back in the fight at the front.

“Racing in LMP1 will be a new experience for me and I am looking forward to it a lot. 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.”

The same trio of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima returns for a second consecutive year, with Davidson and Buemi remaining together for the fifth straight season in the WEC.

“Once again, for the 2016 season we will have a very strong driver lineup,” said team president Toshio Sato.

“Kamui showed his speed and commitment in testing, so it was a relatively easy decision to select him to replace Alex. We know he is capable of doing a good job alongside Stéphane and Mike.

“I believe we have two strong driver lineups who will be able to get the best out of the TS050 Hybrid. With this all-new car, 2016 is a big season for us; I believe we have the drivers and the car to succeed.”

The test and reserve driver will be announced, along with full technical details of the new TS050 Hybrid, at a launch event on March 24 at Paul Ricard.

Car numbers, meanwhile, will be revealed on Friday at the ACO press conference.

Kobayashi’s addition to the lineup was presented as part of Toyota’s annual program announcement in Tokyo, which also saw the debut of a newly revised livery under the unified Toyota Gazoo Racing branding.

Last year, the team branding came later but the entrant name with the FIA was still registered as Toyota Hybrid Racing.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) is Sportscar365's North American Editor, focusing on coverage of the IMSA-sanctioned championships as well as Pirelli World Challenge. DiZinno also contributes to and other motorsports outlets. Contact Tony

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