Former Sauber and Caterham Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi has joined Toyota as a test and development driver for its LMP1 programme.
The 28 year old will assist with the development of the Toyota TS040 Hybrid, which begins its FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) defence at Silverstone in April.
Kobayashi will combine his LMP1 testing role with a full season in the Japanese Super Formula championship, competing against Toyota team-mate Kazuki Nakajima and Audi factory driver Andre Lotterer.
“It’s great to be back with Toyota and I am grateful to the team for giving me this chance,” said Kobayashi, who has already tested the 2015-spec TS040 Hybrid this year. “I know many of the team members from my time with Toyota in Formula 1 so this feels like I am coming home. It’s another important year for the team so I am looking forward to building a strong working relationship with everyone and contributing to the development of the car.”
Toyota announced Kobayashi’s new role ahead of the official FIA WEC Prologue test at Paul Ricard, which starts tomorrow (March 27). Its pair of TS040 Hybrids will both be present, and will once again come under the 6MJ bracket of the LMP1 category.
The team has confirmed a number of upgrades for its championship-winning car, including a revised front end crash structure, aerodynamic tweaks and additional weight saving.
Winter development has been productive, with the team accumulating over 25,000 km in test sessions at Paul Ricard, Aragon and Portimao. This has included the refining of the TS040’s low-downforce body kit, which will be used at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The #1 car will be driven by FIA WEC world champions Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi, with Nakajima joining the line-up. The #2 sister car will be campaigned by Mike Conway, Stéphane Sarrazin and Alexander Wurz, while Kobayashi will be on call to step in to a race seat when necessary.