The Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup season begins this weekend, as the world's premier one-make racing series celebrates twenty years.
This season kicks-off with a double header race meeting in Bahrain, before one race at each of the European Formula 1 Grands Prix during the remainder of the year.
Rene Rast returns for a shot at a third consecutive season, still racing with Austrian Walter Lechner's team after securing a last-minute deal – so last-minute in fact that he won't race with the number one. He's aiming to get his campaign off to the best possible start.
“The last time I competed in Bahrain I won both races,” said the German pilot. “I'll be doing everything within my power to repeat that result this year.”
Rast is no longer racing under the Veltins Lechner Racing banner though, his place alongside 2011 vice-champion Norbert Siedler having been taken by newcomer Michael Ammermuller. A former Red Bull Junior and reserve driver, the 26-year-old German is no stranger to success on the F1 support bill having won in GP2 in 2006. He was fastest in free practice on Friday, just ahead of teammate Siedler.
Rast meanwhile will be partnered at Lechner Racing later in the year by amateur Andreas Mayerl, but Qatar's Saadon Al Kuwari races in Bahrain.
Konrad Motorsport bring a three car assault, led by Sean Edwards who has taken the place of fellow Brit Nick Tandy at the team. Christian Engelhart, the winner of last season's Istanbul opener, remains with the team, while Renger van der Zande joins from the DTM and will fight Ammermuller for the best rookie honours.
That prize went to Frenchman Kevin Estre last year, who impressed with two poles and a race win. He continues with Hermes Attempto Racing and is joined by Nicki Thiim, the son of former DTM champion Kurt, who steps up from the German series.
Someone who impressed even more than Estre last year was Kuba Giermaziak, the Polish driver becoming a force to be reckoned with together with his Verva Racing Team, as he took back-to-back wins in Hungary and Spa on his way to third in the standings. This year he is joined at the team by 18-year-old Patryk Szczerbinski, who will be familiar to British readers after competing in the Intersteps Championship. He was selected ahead of VW Scirocco R-Cup champion Mateusz Lisowski to partner compatriot Giermaziak.
Another newcomer from Poland is Forch Racing, which steps up from the German series. Robert Lukas joins from Attempto after racing for Forch in Germany, while Slovakia's Stefan Rosina moves from Verva. Florian Scholze drives their third car.
Team Bleekemolen line up with regulars Sebastiaan Bleekemolen and Alessandro Zampedri, while veteran Patrick Huisman is replaced by fellow Dutchman and F3 convert Jeroen Mul.
One team will be absent in Bahrain, with MRS having announced their decision stay at home with doubts over the security situation. They will arrive at round two in Barcelona with former single-seater ace Philipp Eng and American mainstay Will Langhorne.