Takuma Sato expects a baptism of fire for Formula One new-boys Super Aguri in Bahrain this weekend.
The Honda-backed team will confound their critics just by taking to the grid in Sunday’s race after a frantic battle to prepare for their debut season.
The new team, which takes the Formula One grid back to 22 cars for the first time since 2002, have been created to keep Sato in the sport but the 29-year-old expects to have his work cut out at Sakhir.
Super Aguri are using modified four-year-old ex-Arrows chassis until their own car is ready and Sato is predicting an uphill battle.
He said: “I am very excited to be going to Bahrain with a brand new team. They have done a great job to ensure that we made it to the first race – and that is a fantastic achievement.
“We know that it will be a difficult start for what will be a very challenging year, but we are very much looking forward to it.”
Sato will be partnered by rookie Yuji Ide in an all-Japanese team this season, with the Formula Nippon veteran eagerly looking forward to his debut.
“The anticipation of my first Formula One race is nearly over and I am very excited about it,” he added.
For team boss Aguri Suzuki, the first Japanese driver to claim a Formula One podium, just getting to the starting grid in Bahrain is a major achievement.
Suzuki’s staff at Leafield in Oxfordshire have worked tirelessly to have two cars ready and he said: “The first race of the 2006 Formula One season is a milestone for Super Aguri.
“It is an amazing achievement that we have put together a Formula One team in only four months and I am very proud of everyone involved.
“As a new team we have many personnel who are new to Formula One and we are all very much looking forward to arriving in Bahrain.
“We know that we have a challenging year ahead, but we are determined and have great team spirit which we hope you will see this weekend.”