International stars confirmed for S5000 Tasman Series
Ex-Formula 1 driver, Japanese F3 winner headline international contingent for S5000 Tasman Series
THE return of the iconic Tasman Series via Australia’s premier open wheel category, S5000, will see an international field compete for the Tasman Cup, following confirmation that two overseas drivers will contest the series.
Former Formula 1 driver and current Sports Car ace, Spanish driver Roberto Merhi and Japanese Formula 3 / GT racer Yoshiaki Katayama will join 2021 S5000 Australian Drivers Champion Joey Mawson in a three-car Team BRM attack on the Tasman Cup.
The international duo will race with the current Gold Star champion team with backing from Alabar and Form 700, who supported the squad throughout the regular-season championship earlier this year.
The Tasman Series was famous for attracting profile international talent to Australia and New Zealand during its halcyon days between 1964 and 1975.
International interest in the return of the Tasman Series via S5000 had been high, however any potential participation had been placed on hold pending changes to inbound travel restrictions into Australia.
The recent relaxation of quarantining requirements for incoming travellers into New South Wales allowed for discussions to resume, with Merhi and Katayama both completing their relevant travel and visa documentation just in time for approval by authorities this week.
Katayama will land in Australia today (Tuesday) while Mehri arrives Wednesday, both in time to get their first taste of S5000 horsepower in the official Tasman Series test session on Thursday night at Sydney Motorsport Park.
Both drivers are well-credentialed to challenge for the Tasman Series.
30-year-old Spaniard Merhi raced for the Manor Marussia Formula One team in the 2015 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Prior to that he won the Formula 3 EuroSeries and FIA F3 International Trophy in 2011 and finished third in the 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 Series, prior to his Formula One debut.
He finished third in the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Championship – where he raced at The Bend – and raced for G-Drive in the European Le Mans Series this year.
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.
Merhi, Katayama and existing Team BRM driver Mawson will each feature backing from long-time S5000 supporters Alabar and Form 700, while the international entries will also have additional support from PAYCE on their respective cars.
The S5000 Tasman Series commences this weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park with a pre-event test under lights on Thursday night, followed by practice and qualifying on Friday and racing on Saturday and Sunday.
The action will be broadcast live on the Seven Network, Fox Sports and Kayo Sports.
“I have been watching S5000 from a distance and did see one testing when I was here for the Asian LeMans Series race at The Bend last year, so I can’t wait to get to Sydney for the first round.
“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.”
“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. 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!
“We will work together, as a team, to try to win the series.”
Chris Lambden – S5000 Category Development Manager
“The COVID-19 Pandemic has been the major hurdle to much of the momentum we’ve been trying to generate while building S5000, but from the moment we launched the category it has had serious international interest.
“The return of the Tasman Series only increased interest from Australia, New Zealand and further overseas and there is no doubt we would have had several more drivers from here, across the Tasman and further abroad had the situation been different.
“Several Queensland-based competitors and New Zealand drivers were unable to compete, however it is incredible to be able to confirm that, despite the challenges, we have still been able to secure a couple of true internationals in Roberto and Yoshi to join the Alabar/Form 700 Team.”
“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. 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.
“Team BRM’s well-known chief engineer, Marcus Koch, was a great help as the point of original contact with both of the drivers – he seems to know everyone.
“So, the first S5000 Tasman Series is going to have an international feel, and it’s another hugely positive step forward for the category.”
Alan Galloway – Managing Director of Alabar
“On behalf of Alabar, and my friend Wasyl Rosati at Form700, we’re delighted to be able to continue the support of S5000.
“To have two internationals with great reputations in top-level series’, Roberto and Yoshi, lining up on the grid as part of our team is terrific – a further step in the growth and international respect for S5000.
“S5000 at SMP will be great; S5000 at Bathurst will be eye-opening!”