Italy's Davide Valsecchi will be driving the #3 DAMS car for the 2012 GP2 season, the French-based team announced on Thursday.
Former GP2 Asia champion Valsecchi will be filling the race shoes of Romain Grosjean, who led the team to the 2011 GP2 drivers' championship and to second place in the teams' standings. DAMS are keen to maintain that momentum into the forthcoming season.
"I'm delighted to welcome Davide to DAMS," said team CEO Jean-Paul Driot. "He'll be the foundation on which we'll build our campaign to defend the drivers' title we won last year."
"It's a great honour for me to join the DAMS team," said Valsecchi. "It'll give me the chance to drive a really competitive car and battle with the front-runners on a regular basis. In the light of the team's performance last season I'm convinced that it'll provide me with a first-class single-seater in 2012."
Valsecchi - who will turn 25 next week - has competed in GP2 for the last four seasons, starting with Durango in 2008 before a mid-season switch to Barwa Addax in 2009, followed by a year with iSport International in 2009 which saw him win the GP2 Asia series and also finish in eighth place in the GP2 main series drivers' championship.
Valsecchi repeated eighth position in GP2 last year, after switching to new entrants Team AirAsia (since renamed Caterham Racing.) Valsecchi claimed AirAsia's maiden GP2 victory in 2011's Monaco feature race, which for him was his third race win in his time in GP2 on top of another four wins in the sister GP2 Asia series.
"Today he's one of the benchmarks in GP2," said Driot. "His experience and speed should help us to fight at the front."
"I'm impatient to start testing to be competitive right from the season's kick-off," said Valsecchi, adding that he already had a good relations with the rest of the team. "It'll be up to me to give my best to continue its run of successes."
As well as GP2, Valsecchi has raced in Italian Formula Renault, Formula Three and Formula 3000 and in three races of the 2006 Le Mans Series LMP2 class. As part of his responsibilities at AirAsia, Valsecchi was also one of the Lotus F1 team's test drivers in 2011.
DAMS are yet to announce who will race alongside Valsecchi in 2012. Last year, they opted to pair the experienced Grosjean with Pal Varhaug, and after the 2011 season concluded the team tested Rio Haryanto, Nico Muller, Giovanni Venturini, Rodolfo Gonzalez and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, as well as Stefano Coletti who has since signed with Coloni.
Haryanto may be in pole position for the second DAMS seat, as he was given the nod to race for the team in the GP2 Final non-championship event at Abu Dhabi in November alongside Dutch driver Nigel Melker, who has now been handed a 2012 contract with Ocean Racing Technology.
The newly-expanded GP2 calendar starts at Sepang in Malaysia on March 23-25, with two pre-season test sessions scheduled for all teams and drivers in Spain at Jerez (February 28-March 1) and Barcelona (March 6-8).