As expected, Toyota had promoted a member of its Young Drivers Programme [TDP] to replace the departing Franck Montagny as its third driver for the coming Formula One campaign.

Although the team has yet to confirm its race pairing - with Timo Glock among those tipped to partner Jarno Trulli in 2008, Kamui Kobayashi will assume the role of test and reserve driver following confirmation by Toyota Motorsport GmbH on Friday [16 November].

The 21-year old, currently in Macau for the annual F3 Grand Prix, has been associated with Toyota since 2001, having first raced single-seaters in the Esso Formula Toyota Championship in Japan. With the aim of making it to F1, he moved to Europe in 2003, and has since progressed through the single-seater ranks
to become a race winner in the F3 Euroseries after finding success in both the Formula Renault Eurocup and Italian national championship, taking a rare title double in 2005.

Although a relatively disappointing 2007 campaign saw him take just one win on the way to fourth in the F3 Euroseries standings with ASM, TDP decided that he had done enough to earn the role with Toyota's F1 team.

"I am very pleased to welcome Kamui to the team," chairman and principal Tadashi Yamashina said, "He tested the car last winter and showed he had the potential to drive in F1 in the future. Now, after another season gaining experience in F3, we believe he is ready for the challenge. It is also very gratifying to see the TDP scheme delivering results."

Kobayashi's confirmation comes hot on the heels of fellow TDP member, and former F3 rival, Kazuki Nakajima being promoted to the Toyota-engined Williams line-up for 2008.

"The TDP scheme has been very supportive of me during my career and I am very grateful for all that support," Kobayashi admitted, "This is a great challenge for me and I am very excited about becoming an F1 driver."

The youngster, who can be expected to take on a race role in GP2 to accompany his promotion to Toyota's line-up, will take over from Montagny with immediate effect, and should appear with the F1 team at the next off-season test.

"Since the start of my career, I have dreamed of reaching F1 and to have the chance to join Panasonic Toyota Racing as third driver is a fantastic opportunity for me. My first tests for the team last winter went well, but I still have things to learn about F1 and it will be a great experience for me to test more regularly for the team.

"The role of third driver is very important as I will be helping a lot with the development of the car throughout the year. I am sure I will learn a lot about F1 cars and hopefully this will help me in my future career. For now though, I am focused on helping the team move forward."

 

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