Three Japanese drivers will join the WTCC in their home event at Okayama International Circuit: Seiji Ara, Nobuteru Taniguchi and Masaki Kano.
While Kano is back with the Liqui Moly Team Engstler after taking part in two rounds of the 2008 WTCC at Okayama and Macau, Ara and Taniguchi are facing their maiden appearances in the championship.
Ara, 35 years old from Chiba, will drive Wiechers-Sport’s second BMW 320si alongside Stefano D’Aste. A very experienced long-distance racer, Ara is one of the only two Japanese drivers ever ta have won the Le Mans 24 hours (in 2004 at the wheel of a Team Goh Audi R8). He is a race winner for Nissan in the competitive Japanese SuperGT series.
Taniguchi, 38 years old from Hiroshima, will join Félix Porteiro at Proteam Motorsport for both the last race meetings, Japan and Macau. Like Ara, he is a SuperGT top racer (though in the GT300 class) and also boasts a couple of national titles in the Super Taikyu series.
Ara, Taniguchi and Kano (second, third and fifth from the left) at the press launch of the WTCC Race of Japan in Tokyo, together with Kageyama and Tsuchiya who will race in the Asian Le Mans series.
ENGSTLER’S PLANS FOR ASIAN TEAM
The Liqui Moly Team Engstler have already confirmed their participation in the 2010 FIA World Touring Car Championship.
"We are always looking at the future and take care of it in all our decisions," team manager Kurt Treml said. "We are pleased that Liqui Moly confirmed their support for 2010. Franz Engstler and I have been working together for nearly ten years and we always worked to build the team up step by step, with the aim to become one of the best touring car teams in Europe."
The German outfit have also aimed at expanding to Asia in the latest years. After some successful seasons in the Asian Touring Car Series, this year the team will run additional cars for Asian drivers in Okayama and Macau.
"Our next goal is to run a second team in the WTCC featuring young Asian drivers. The Asian market is now ready for such a project and I hope that, with our experience and support from BMW and Liqui Moly, we can be successful," Treml unveiled.