The last Samourai
Since 2021, Formula 1 has rediscovered the passion and talent of a Japanese driver on the grid, welcoming the young Yuki Tsunoda to the AlphaTauri team, which is competing this year in its third season at Circus. But before him Kamui Kobayashi was the latest to make Rising Sun fans’ hearts beat faster in motorsport’s premier class, engaged from 2009 to 2014 – with a “hole” in 2013 – at the wheel of Toyota, Sauber and finally Catheram. Amagasaki’s very fast class of ’86 remains to this day the last Japanese to win an F1 podiumfinishing third at Suzuka, with Sauber, in the 2012 vintage.
After leaving the circus, Kobayashi built a career as a true endurance racing legend. Indeed, in endurance, the 36-year-old Toyota driver won two WEC world titles, a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two successes at the 24 Hours of Daytona. An enviable track record in a multi-faceted career that will see the next very interesting chapter in the United States. Kobayashi has indeed officially announced that will participate in a NASCAR Cup Series racethe premier category of American motorsport, will take place on the Indianapolis circuit on August 13.
— 23XI Racing (@23XIRacing) June 7, 2023
The track used will not be the legendary 500-mile oval, but the internal road course, which over the years has hosted F1 and IndyCar. Kobayashi will run with a Toyota Camry of the 23XI teamwhich also counts basketball legend Michael Jordan among its owners, and will drive the #67 car, which this year had already been used at the start of the season as the team’s third car and welcomed Travis Pastrana at the wheel of the Daytona 500.
An increasingly attractive championship
The intriguing adventure of the Japanese pilot bears witness to a growing interest of former F1 protagonists in the NASCAR championship. In fact, last year we also saw Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button involved in the Cup Series, with the latter returning to the track for the City of Chicago race on July 2. Not to mention that another endurance legend, Jordan Taylor, had also raced this year in the Cup Series in the Austin race.