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Kamui Kobayashi

By k
August 6 2007

screen-capture-3.png picture by Naomi_7

Kamui Kobayashi is a new recruit to Panasonic Toyota Racing as third driver, but he has been part of the Toyota family for much of his motorsport life.

As a member of the Toyota Young Drivers Programme (TDP), which is run by Toyota Motor Corporation, Kamui has been given all the training he needs - at the track and away from it - to step up from the Formula 3 Euro Series.

The TDP scheme helps young drivers not only on the track by giving support as they make their way through the ranks towards Formula 1, but also by providing language lessons, personal fitness programmes and seminars from experienced drivers away from the track.
For Kamui, the TDP scheme has helped him achieve his dream of joining the Formula 1 elite, as he says: "I started with TDP when I was 14 years old in Japan. I did just one season of Formula Toyota and came to Europe. They have given me great support and encouragement since then. They help me with a lot of things, such as teaching me English and helping me improve my driving and my feedback. They have been very good to me."

Kamui moved to Europe for the 2004 season and now lives in Paris, where he soaks up the atmosphere of one of the world's most cultural cities.

"There is an interesting atmosphere in Paris which I really like because of the big businessmen, the artists, the designers, all these important people who are there and give the city its character," he says. "It is a fascinating city to spend time in."

Kamui has progressed through the single-seater ranks in Europe after making a name for himself as a star of the future in Japanese junior racing.

With TDP support, Kamui 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.

At the beginning of my career I was not thinking about Formula 1 - I just wanted to win each race. I never thought much about the future because it was far away from my situation at the time. Winning each race was my target but when I started racing single-seaters in Europe I started to dream of Formula 1. You have to work hard and be very determined to become a Formula 1 driver.

From there he stepped up to Formula 3, the traditional breeding ground for future Formula 1 stars, and, in 2006, after a promising first season at that level, Panasonic Toyota Racing offered him the chance to join its winter tests.

That experience certainly made an impression on Kamui, who says of a Formula 1 car: "Everything is just more extreme and it is a special experience to drive a Formula 1 car. It is difficult to drive at the limit of the car, at the limit of grip and at the limit of your concentration - it requires a high level of performance."

In all he completed three days behind the wheel at Barcelona and Jerez before returning to the Euro Series where he proved to be a formidable competitor, showing speed and commitment. At Magny-Cours, that was plain for the whole Formula 1 paddock to see when he pulled off a superb win in the French Grand Prix support race.

He finished fourth in the championship but had shown enough potential to be offered the third driver role with Panasonic Toyota Racing for 2008. 

 

1996:SL Takarazuka Tournament, Cadet: 3rd
1997:SL All Japan Cadet: 1st
1998:JAF Cup West Cadet: 1st
1999:SL All Japan Tournament (S stock, D class): 1st
2000:All Japan Junior Kart Championship
Suzuka Kart Championship: 1st
2001:All Japan Kart Championship, ICA: 1st
Asia Pacific Kart Championship, ICA 
Esso Formula Toyota Racing School scholarship
2002:Kart Euro Championship
Esso Formula Toyota Series (1 race)
2003:Esso Formula Toyota Series: 2nd
2004:Formula Renault Italia: 4th (2 wins)
2005:Formula Renault Italia: 1st (6 wins)
Formula Renault Eurocup: 1st (5 wins)
2006:Formula 3 Euro Series: 8th (Rookie of the Year)
2007:Formula 3 Euro Series: 4th (1 win)

 

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