FORMER Formula 1 driver Roberto Merhi and Japanese Formula 3 and GT racer Yoshiaki Katayama will add international interest to the S5000 Tasman Series.
The duo has been confirmed to take part in the two-event series, taking place at Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend and as part of the Repco Bathurst 1000 on November 30-December 5.
Recent relaxation of quarantining requirements for incoming travellers into New South Wales have allowed the pair to take part; Katayama to arrive in Australia today and Mehri on Wednesday.
They will drive as part of a three-car attack from Team BRM that will also include 2021 S5000 Series winner Joey Mawson.
Spaniard Merhi, 30, contested 13 Formula 1 Grands Prix for the Manor Marussia Formula 1 team in 2015.
He’s since spent time in Formula 2 and sportscar racing, including competing in the Asian Le Mans Series race at The Bend in South Australia in early 2020.
“I have been watching S5000 from a distance and did see one testing when I was here for the Asian Le Mans Series race at The Bend last year, so I can’t wait to get to Sydney for the first round,” he said.
“And Bathurst … we’ve seen the Bathurst 1000 many times on TV, so to drive a powerful open-wheeler like the Alabar/Form700 car around there will be pretty interesting, to say the least.”
Japanese driver Katayama, 27, won the 2016 All-Japan Formula 3 Championship National Class and finished 6th in the 2020 Super Formula Lights series.
He has been racing an Audi R8 in the GT300 category of the Japanese SuperGT Championship this year.
“I’m very excited about my first drive in the S5000 car; my first visit to Australia and my first race at both those tracks – especially Bathurst, which will be amazing,” he said.
“I’ve been wanting to drive an S5000 since I first saw them on YouTube!”
S5000 category development manager Chris Lambden says the COVID-19 pandemic has proven a major hurdle as the series tries to attract competitors, including those from overseas.
“Six weeks ago, it seemed like Mission Impossible, however the ‘opening up’ of NSW, particularly the relaxing of quarantine requirements, meant we could realistically start over,” he said.
“It has required special travel exemptions on top of normal ‘Sports-related’ visas and it has been a huge logistical challenge from all involved, but well worth it.”