McLaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne has made his much anticipated test debut in a Super Formula car at Suzuka ahead of what is expected to be a full-time drive in the series next year.
The Belgian, who has been officially confirmed as McLaren's test and reserve driver for the 2016 season following his GP2 Series title win, travelled to Japan to test a Honda-engined car in preparation for full campaign next year.
McLaren is keen for Vandoorne to keep racing in 2016 after his predecessor – and 2014 F1 race driver – Kevin Magnussen spent a year on the sidelines before officially severing ties with the team in September. Super Formula, which features Honda engines and is faster than a GP2 car, is considered the favoured racing option alongside his F1 commitments.
With the Suzuka outing billed as a rookie and engine manufacturer test, Vandoorne ended the day with the eighth best lap in the Docomo Dandelion Racing car, though his efforts were hampered by Honda engine troubles.
“It's been a fantastic day for me, my first time in a Super Formula car," he told the Super Formula Facebook page. "It was also a new track for me and I really enjoyed my time here. It's been a bit of a difficult day for us with engine problems in the morning. I did not do so many laps in dry conditions but I think our pace looked pretty good before the failure.
"In the afternoon, the conditions were quite difficult. It rained then it stopped, so it was really tricky. I think we managed it quite well though. I'm looking forward to putting everything together and hopefully having another go in one of these cars."
Vandoorne will now return to Abu Dhabi to complete his GP2 Series season. The youngster has been the dominant force of 2015, winning six races and finishing off the podium in just five of the 20 races.