Toyota Development driver news 2006-11-10

TDP Driver Kazuki Nakajima Selected as Test Driver for Williams F1 Team for 2007 Kohei Hirate and Kamui Kobayashi to Participate in Panasonic Toyota Racing F1 Tests Kazuki Nakajima, who competed in the 2006 F3 Euro series, was selected as a...

TDP Driver Kazuki Nakajima Selected as Test Driver for Williams F1 Team for 2007

Kohei Hirate and Kamui Kobayashi to Participate in Panasonic Toyota Racing F1 Tests

Kazuki Nakajima, who competed in the 2006 F3 Euro series, was selected as a test driver for the Williams F1 team, for the 2007 season. He also plans to participate on the DAMS team in the GP2 series, a category below F1.

In addition, Kohei Hirate, who also competed in the F3 Euro series this year, plans to race in the GP2 series on the Trident team, starting in 2007. Kamui Kobayashi, winner of the rookie title in the 2006 F3 Euro series, plans to compete in the series for a second year as a part of the ASM Formula 3 team. Both Hirate and Kobayashi will be given opportunities to perform F1 tests for the Panasonic Toyota Racing team.

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) is conducting the Toyota Young Drivers Program (TDP) with the participation of promising young drivers to identify and cultivate new talent and support their continuous improvement. This program is aimed to foster drivers who hope to compete in top racing categories, both in Japan and throughout the world. The program will continue support the activities of participating drivers through a process of selection and improvement in each category in 2007.

Reference: History of TDP
The TDP was established in 2000 as a part of the Formula Toyota Racing School (FTRS), a hands-on racing school that TMC has been operating for some time in Japan, to discover and cultivate talented young drivers through scholarships. In 2001, TMC then created the Toyota Drivers Academy (TDA) to foster young drivers overseas. The two programs were integrated in 2005 under the name Toyota Young Drivers Program (TDP), allowing centralized management of activities.

In 2006, the TDP supported participation in Europe in the GP2 series as well as the F3 Euro series, a gateway to F1, and the Formula Renault 2.0 series, an introductory category. In Japan, the TDP supported drivers in the All Japan F3 Championship, which gathers those aiming to participate in the top categories in the future, the ESSO Formula Toyota series, an introductory formula series and Formula Challenge Japan (FCJ), which were created in 2006 to foster young drivers. In total, 15 drivers have developed their abilities through participation.

Comments of drivers and TMC motorsports personnel

Kohei Hirate (Manor Motorsport) : I will compete in the GP2 series next year and participate in races here (Europe) for another year. I can also test drive occasionally so I am extremely happy about that. I am very motivated for next season. I have advanced in GP2, which is a step toward F1, and I will do my very best to come even closer to F1.

Kazuki Nakajima (Manor Motorsport) : This will be the first time for me to participate in both GP2 and F1. I hope to gain as much experience as possible and achieve good results in GP2. I am still not completely sure how F1 is like, but I will have the opportunity to drive as a test driver and hope to contribute to the team while gaining experience. My ultimate goal is to be an F1 race driver and I hope to make 2007 a year to achieve my goal.

Kamui Kobayashi (ASM Formula 3) : I will be able to compete in the F3 Euro series next year with the same champion team as this year. I get along well with other team members and I believe that the team structure makes it possible for me to be series champion next year and I am going to pursue that goal. As a member of the Toyota family, I would like to take the opportunity that has been given to me to be an F1 test driver and I hope I can contribute to creating outstanding racecars and support the team. I hope to gain extensive experience and become an appreciative driver.

Yoshiaki Kinoshita, General Manager, TMC Motorsports Division : Hirate, Nakajima, and Kobayashi have been working very hard in Europe compete in F1, which is one of the goals of the TDP. It is a tremendous honor that Nakajima was offered the opportunity to be an F1 test driver for the Williams F1 team. TMC will continue to support these drivers as a member of the TDP.

Hiromi Hayashi, Deputy General Manager, TMC Motorsports Division : The Japanese media frequently reported the activities of Hirate, Nakajima, and Kobayashi in Europe this year, and I believe their performance was highly evaluated. The three often appeared on the podium in the highly competitive F3 Euro series, displaying that they can match or even surpass the top European drivers.

Next year, each driver will have his own issues to address. I hope that when they move up to the GP2 series, Nakajima and Hirate will polish their skills in the more competitive environment, and that Kobayashi will become a champion of the F3 Euro series in his second year. All three plan to race in F1 test programs and I look forward to them making the most of these opportunities and taking on the challenge of becoming F1 drivers.

Other TDP drivers in Europe and Japan also hone their skills in their respective categories. I am very pleased that our activities are being praised in Europe and Japan.

-credit: tpd

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About this article
Series F3 Europe , Formula 1 , GP2
Drivers Kamui Kobayashi , Kazuki Nakajima , Kohei Hirate
Teams Williams , Manor Racing , Toyota Racing , DAMS , Trident