Takuma Sato has inked a deal with OAK Racing for the Asian rounds of the World Endurance Championship next month.
Sato will partner Bertrand Baguette and Dominik Kraihamer at the wheel of the team's LMP1 car when it returns to action at Fuji on 14 October, and will also be at the wheel for the event in Shanghai two weeks later.
The deal has come about after OAK elected to drop the Judd engine it has previously used in its LMP1 car and replace it with a Honda Performance Development V8 powerplant.
Sato had his first chance to sample the car during a shakedown test at Magny-Cours on Thursday and said he was looking forward to the challenge.
“Working with OAK Racing is an opportunity that has really excited and motivated me,” Sato, who has spent this season competing with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the IndyCar
Series, said. “I've spent my entire career racing single-seaters and obviously the LMP1 feels different to those, but my initial impressions are very good and I am thrilled by this whole new experience.
“Thursday was only a shakedown of the OAK-HPD LMP1 package but everything went to plan. As well as the new engine the team has an updated aero package to evaluate, so there will be plenty of work to get through on Friday and then during testing at Fuji on October 10. I've got a lot to learn before the race but I am really looking forward to the weekend and seeing the very enthusiastic Japanese fans.
“The team will receive a great following there and it will be fantastic to race in front of my home crowd again.”
Team manager Sebastien Philippe said he was thrilled to have the former Honda and Super Aguri F1 man onboard.
“I am delighted that Taku will be joining us for the Asian races,” he said. “We first met in 2000 when we were both F3
drivers for Honda so I have first-hand experience of just how quick and talented he is. On top of that he's a really nice guy to have around the garage so I have no doubts that he can make a significant contribution to the team and our LMP1 programme.”