Former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi will move into a full-time Toyota LMP1 race seat for the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship.
The Japanese driver will replace Alex Wurz, who announced his retirement from professional motorsport at the end of last season.
Kobayashi, who has 75 Grand Prix starts to his name, joined Toyota’s LMP1 program as a testing and development driver in 2015.
He will race alongside Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway in one of two new TS050 Hybrids entered by Toyota in the 2016 season. The other car will retain its existing lineup of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima for the nine race calendar.
Kobayashi’s recent appointment means there is now a vacancy for a testing and development role at Toyota Gazoo Racing. The team has confirmed that it will announce the new driver at the Paul Ricard official test on March 24.
“It’s great to be part of this team again, alongside Anthony and Sébastien,” said Kobayashi. “We learnt a lot together during a difficult 2015 so I believe we will come back stronger this season. We are all motivated to have success with the TS050 HYBRID and everyone is working flat-out to achieve this.”
“Once again, for the 2016 season we will have a very strong driver line-up,” added 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 line-ups 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.”
Kobayashi is no stranger to endurance racing, having raced a GTE-Pro Ferrari 458 Italia in the 2013 FIA WEC. Since then he has returned to Formula 1 for a stint with Caterham in 2014, before finishing fifth in the 2015 Super Formula championship.