- Jul 23, 2014
Seven-year Formula One veteran Heikki Kovalainen has announced that he will join Lexus Team SARD in the GT500 class of the Autobacs Super GT Series this season.
The 33-year-old Finn, who previously drove for Lotus, Caterham, McLaren, and Renault, broke the news Friday on Twitter that he will be relocating to Japan to contest the 2015 Super GT Series, after spending most of the last two years in a perplexing racing exile after his career in F1 wound to a close. This will be Kovalainen's first effort in sports cars, after spending his entire career to date in single-seater competition.
“I replied immediately when I received the offer from SARD because I knew that Super GT is a high level, competitive and interesting race series like no other in the world,” said Kovalainen.
In 112 Grands Prix, Kovalainen claimed a solitary but memorable victory in 2008, driving his McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 to victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix. He has one pole position (2008 British Grand Prix) and four career podiums in Formula One. He last appeared for the Lotus F1 Team, only finishing as high as fourteenth in a two-race stint in relief of an injured Kimi Raikkonen at the United States and Brazilian Grands Prix. Before then, Kovalainen won the 2004 World Series by Nissan, and finished runner-up to Nico Rosberg in the inaugural GP2 Series in 2005.
Kovalainen will now drive the famous number 39 Denso Lexus RC-F in tandem with 2013 GT500 co-champion and fellow GP2 Series alumni, Kohei Hirate. Together, they will join a six-team Lexus fleet that includes former Formula 1 test driver James Rossiter, and three-time GT500 champions Yuji Tachikawa and Juichi Wakisaka.
The Finn added: “At the test the other day, I drove the Lexus RC-F with Super GT spec for the first time and got the impression that it is a very stable, fast machine. It’s a small team with a family atmosphere. Each member was very professional and Kohei [Hirate] is a nice guy too."
“I am delighted with the opportunity to compete at the Super GT with this team, in front of everyone in Japan. I would like to express my gratitude to Toyota TRD also."
The confirmation of SARD's star-studded Super GT lineup caps off a busy week for the team, who also announced the formation of a new team in the World Endurance Championship: Team SARD-Morand, a two-car, joint-venture with team principal Benoit Morand. The Swiss-Japanese squad will contest the full WEC campaign, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with two Morgan-Judd prototypes and a driver lineup that includes former Formula 1 driver Christian Klein, former Formula Renault 3.5 Series driver Oliver Webb, and Super GT mainstay Koki Saga.