Former Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi is set to make his maiden start in the FIA Formula E championship next month.
Kobayashi has been tapped by the Andretti team to race in the first event of the 2017/8 season in Hong Kong next month. It means that he will partner Antonio Felix da Costa in the double-header.
DTM driver Tom Blomqvist had originally been named on the team's entry list for the season. Blomqvist is expected to return to the team for the rest of the Formula E season, barring any clashes with WEC and DTM events.
However, Motorsport.com reports that the team's current title sponsor MS&AD - a major Japanese insurance company - wanted Kobayashi for the first race. The team's CEO Michael Andretti said that it would be an exciting start to the next all-electric series.
"To partner one of the largest companies in Japan, MS&AD Insurance, with one of the most popular Japanese racing drivers, will be exciting to see," said Andretti.
“He has shown what he can do in both Formula 1 and WEC, making Formula E a perfect next step," he added. “We are very fortunate to have a driver of Kobayashi’s calibre in the car to start the season in Hong Kong."
Kobayashi originally made his way up through Formula Renault and GP2. he became Toyota F1's test driver in 2007 and made his race début with the team at the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix.
He subsequently raced for Sauber for three seasons from 2010. His best result was third place at his home race in Japan in 2012. When Toyota left the sport, he spent a year out before returning with Caterham in 2014. In total he made 75 Grand Prix race starts.
Since leaving F1 he's become best known for driving in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Toyota Gazoo Racing. He has also competed in three seasons of the Japanese Super Formula championship.
“Andretti is one of the world most popular racing families," said Kobayashi, who described the news as a "wonderful opportunity."
"I am so excited to have my Formula E debut race under his name,” he added. “I will be going to the race weekend without testing, which is not an easy thing to be honest.
“But the team has been giving me all the support," he said. "I am really looking forward to having good races there."
Kobayashi will be the first Japanese racer to take part in Formula E since Sakon Yamamoto drove for Aguri in the inaugural season of the championship.