Special Tuning Racing have signed German driver Rene Munnich for next weekend’s FIA World Touring Car Championship Race of Japan at Suzuka.

The 35-year-old runs the All-Inkl Munnich Motorsport team that recently won the FIA GT1 World Championship, while as a driver he won four German rallycross titles between 2007 and 2010 in a Skoda Fabia. He has also done the occasional circuit race in GTs as well as a round of ADAC Procar touring car series in 2007.

Munnich replaces Darryl O’Young, who has switched back to bamboo engineering for the remainder of the season, behind the wheel of the Lancarshire-based team’s second SEAT Leon WTCC alongside Tom Boardman. He says his appearance in Japan will allow him to evaluate the option of his team competing in the WTCC in 2013, with the immediate future of GT racing in doubt.

“It is a great pleasure to work with Special Tuning Racing in the WTCC,” he said. “It is a good opportunity for me to get a hands-on evaluation of the WTCC.

“As a driver this is a new challenge for me. I have never raced at Suzuka before. Luckily we are using the short circuit so that will give me the chance to learn the track quickly and get used to the car. My aim is to see a continual improvement from the first practice session to the last lap of the final race; that would be a good result.

“The competition in the WTCC is of the highest level, so it will take some time to get used to it. I have experience with different cars such as the Lamborghini GT1, the Mercedes SLS GT3, and the old Ford Focus WTCC. The European Rally Cross Championship in which I have been competing this year has come to an end for this season, so I want to use this time now to investigate the possibility for our team for the following WTCC season.”

The team’s technical director Gary Robertshaw added: “We are looking forward to working with René and providing him a really competitive car. We have just come off a very promising weekend in Sonoma and are looking to take this to Suzuka. It’s going to be a big challenge for Rene not having driven a contemporary WTCC car and also having to learn a new circuit. We are confident that the package and support we will provide to Rene will enable us to achieve our goals for the weekend.”