Ex-F1 driver Merhi joins S5000 field
Former Formula 1 driver Roberto Merhi will join the S5000 field for the upcoming Tasman Series in Sydney and Bathurst.
The Spaniard is one of two international drivers that will take advantage of the freshly-opened international border to New South Wales.
The other is Japanese Formula 3 and GT racer Yoshiaki Katayama, the pair set to join the Gold Star-winning Team BRM for the two-round, seven race Tasman Series as part of a three-car team with reigning champion Joey Mawson.
Katayama is due to land in Australia today before Merhi arrives tomorrow ahead of the official series test session at Sydney Motorsport Park on Thursday night.
They will then both race at SMP this weekend and as part of S5000's highly-anticipated debut at Mount Panorama during the first week of December.
Merhi is a vastly experienced open-wheel driver. He won the F3 Euro Series in 2011 and finished third in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2014.
He then spent most of the 2015 season driving for Manor in Formula 1 before shifting his career focus to sportscars in recent years.
“I have been watching S5000 from a distance and did see one testing when I was [in Australia] 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," said Merhi.
“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.”
Katayama has plenty of open-wheeler experience himself having tasted success in the All-Japan Formula 3 Championship and Super Formula Lights. However this will be his first trip down under.
"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!
"I’d like to thank Alabar and Form 700 for the opportunity to come to Australia, and Team BRM, and hope we can achieve a great result to show Japan that there is such a fun race formula in Australia!"
S5000 has been in hiatus since the compact 2021 Gold Star season came to an end in Sydney back in May.
Mawson, Merhi and Katayama will be among those vying to add their name to the the illustrious list of Tasman Cup winners, the famous name being revived with the blessing of both Motorsport Australia and MotorSport New Zealand.
That's despite the series only taking part in Australia, border issues making it both impossible to add a New Zealand round or even welcome a strong contingent of NZ drivers to Australia.
The same problems with the NZ border late last week ruled out the Greg Murphy/Richie Stanaway wildcard entry for the Bathurst 1000.
The Tasman Series will feature a $50,000 prize pool, $5000 of which is dedicated to the best-performing international driver.
A feature race format will be in play for the two events, with partially reversed grids for heats and a points weighting for the finale.