Marino Sato has left Formula 2 after over three years in the championship to join United Autosports in the European Le Mans Series.
The Anglo-American team, founded by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown, competes in ELMS’ top class for LMP2 prototype sportscars. Sato will share a car with Phil Hanson, an LMP2 champion in ELMS, Asian LMS and the World Endurance Championship, and former single-seater Oliver Jarvis who has won in A1GP, Super GT, WEC and IMSA.
Sato departs F2 with just five points finishes from 81 starts, and a best finish of eighth achieved four times. He never qualified in the top 10 during his time in the series, spent with Campos Racing, Trident and finally Virtuosi Racing.
The 23-year-old Japanese had limited success in other series too, winning once from two seasons in Italian Formula 4, only claiming one top-five finish from 60 races in FIA European Formula 3 but then making a breakthrough with a move to the F3-spec Euroformula in 2019 as he dominated the championship with nine wins and six poles from 16 races.
“I would like to thank everyone in the team for their trust and everyone around me for making this happen,” Sato said of his move to ELMS. “It will be a new challenge for me but I’m sure we can have a great season – I’m excited to get started.”
United Autosports team principal Richard Dean added: “This is a super strong driver line-up, we’ve strengthened our team in so many areas as we have our sights solely focussed on winning back our ELMS title.”
Also leaving junior single-seater racing for a full-time LMP2 drive this year is Filip Ugran.
The 20-year-old Romanian was a winner in Italian and Spanish F4 in 2020, then spent 2021 racing in FIA Formula 3 and failed to score. Last year he moved to Euroformula with Van Amersfoort Racing and had claimed a podium before the team withdrew from the series after four rounds.
Ugran was able to return to racing later in the year by joining LMP2 team Algarve Pro Racing for the last two ELMS rounds in a car shared with former F2 racer Bent Viscaal.
The pair will race together again in 2023, but now in one of Prema’s WEC entries and with current F2 racer Juan Manuel Correa as the third driver in the car.