After a mixed 2015 season at the Super Formula, where he finished 11th, Narain Karthikeyan will return to championship in Japan for the new season with the confidence he would be driving for a more established team.
Karthikeyan, 39, who drove for Team Dandelion Racing last season, has joined Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi at the Team Le Mans, which enjoys support from Toyota Motor Sport. “It should be good. The team has been around for a long time, in Japan it one of the best teams around. Obviously, preparations and equipment matter a lot in the sport, so I hope to have an advantage this season,” Karthikeyan told Hindustan Times.
“Last year, we (Team Dandelion) were fast in the beginning of the season, straightaway we got a podium (he finished third in the season opener), but this year I am hoping to be fast throughout the season and be consistent. We have only seven races in the event and hence we have to post strong results in all the races for a shot at the championship,” he said.
Kobayashi, like Karthikeyan, has competed in the Formula One. Karthikeyan was asked who would be the favoured driver in the team, Kobayashi is a Japanese and has impressed in his debut with the team at Super Formula last year (he finished 8th). The Indian replied: “In this kind of series, (both drivers) should be of equal importance to the team.”
He, however, added it would be a challenge to compete to against Kobayashi. “I know him from Formula One. He is a very fast driver and as recently as in 2013 had scored a podium in F1. He is a local boy, but racing is about competing against other drivers, and my teammate is one of them.” Kobayashi, who made his debut in Formula One in 2009 with the now-defunct Toyota F1 team, had finished third at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2012, then driving for Sauber. He was the first Japanese to get a podium after Aguri Suzuki did so at the same event in 1990.
The Super Formula championship will commence at the Suzuka Circuit, the venue for Japanese GP, on April 18. The racing cars are powered by 550bhp turbocharged engines and drive on Yokohama tyres.
The other major racers in the championship include World Endurance champions Kazuki Nakajima of Japan and Andre Lotterer of Germany. High-profile additions to the grid this year include the reigning GP2 champion and McLaren F1 reserve driver, Stoffel Vandoorne of Belgium and GP3 race winner Richie Stanaway of New Zealand.