The ex-Formula 1 racer was forced to skip the first two rounds of the 2020 campaign at Fuji Speedway because of the strict travel restrictions that bar foreign nationals travelling from over 140 different countries from entering Japan.
However, the rules were eased at the start of this month for those already with valid visas and who left before the borders were essentially closed as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated, allowing Kovalainen to re-enter Japan.
After serving a mandatory 14-day quarantine in Tokyo, Kovalainen will make his first start in Toyota’s all-new GR Supra alongside SARD teammate Yuichi Nakayama – and his first race appearance since last year’s Dream Race at Fuji.
“It’s a big challenge,” Kovalainen told Motorsport.com. “It would have been easier [to come back] at Fuji because Suzuka is a difficult track.
“I’ll do my best to quickly feel the car and the tyre and step-by-step hopefully find a good speed. But I don’t know what to expect after such a long break.
“[At home in Finland] I didn’t do any karting or anything. I have a nice simulator at home so I did some online races and I practiced some Japanese circuits, especially Suzuka, and in Tokyo [during quarantine] I watched a lot of on-board videos from last year.
“Besides that, I couldn’t do anything, so I am starting again from the beginning.”
#39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra