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Kobayashi announced as Toyota third driver 16 Nov 2007

Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Toyota Formula One Testing, Day 2, Jerez, Spain. 7 December 2006. World © Bumstead/Sutton.

Toyota have confirmed that Kamui Kobayashi, a graduate of the Toyota Young Drivers Programme (TDP), will step up to Formula One racing in 2008 as the team’s third driver, replacing the outgoing Franck Montagny

Kobayashi, 21, has been associated with Toyota since 2001, and he first raced single-seaters in the Esso Formula Toyota Championship in Japan in 2002. After making a name for himself in Japanese junior racing, he has since progressed through the single-seater ranks in Europe and enjoyed his first Formula One test late last year.

“This is a great challenge for me and I am very excited about becoming a Formula One driver,” said Kobayashi. “Since the start of my career I have dreamed of reaching Formula One 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 Formula One 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 Formula One cars and hopefully this will help me in my future career but for now I am focused on helping the team move forward.”

Commenting on Kobayashi’s appointment, Toyota team principal Tadashi Yamashina said: “I am very pleased to welcome Kamui to the team. He tested the car last winter and showed he had the potential to drive in Formula One in the future. Now, after another season gaining experience in Formula Three, we believe he is ready for the challenge of Formula 1. It is also very gratifying to see the TDP scheme delivering results and helping a promising young driver to reach Formula One.”

Kobayashi moved to Europe in 2004 and spent two years in the Formula Renault Eurocup and Italian Formula Renault Championship, winning both crowns in 2005 - a title double only achieved previously by one other driver.

From there he stepped up to Formula Three, a traditional breeding ground for future Formula One stars, and in his two seasons in the Euro Series he scooped rookie of the year honours in the first and finished fourth overall in the second.