33-year old López will replace Jean-Eric Vergne and will be a new addition to the grid in Formula E. The Argentinian comes with an impressive pedigree as current world touring car champion and leads the 2016 FIA WTCC World Championship with 244 points, having claimed six race wins already this season.
Prior to touring cars, ‘Pechito’, as he is known to his friends, had a successful single-seater career, winning the Formula Renault Italian Championship in 2002 and a Formula Eurocup FR V6 title in 2003. He was a test driver in Formula One in 2006.
Bird, who will enter his third season with the team, had another strong season, finishing fourth in the Drivers’ Championship with 88 points. The 29-year old picked up his third victory in FIA Formula E in Buenos Aires, where he led the pack from start to finish. As well as an impressive second place in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Bird also collected three pole positions during the 2015-16 season and in the process won the award for the highest numbers of pole positions in 2015-16.
José María López said, “This is a really exciting move for me and I’m looking forward to the challenge of Formula E with Virgin Racing. I have already had some experience working with the DS Performance team on the season three car, so I am confident that we can achieve great things together next season. As a championship, Formula E is going from strength to strength and I’m particularly looking forward to going back to Buenos Aires where the team had such great success last season!”
Following the announcement, Sam Bird said, “This season has been another positive step forward and I really believe that Virgin Racing is going places. We showed consistent pace in the second half of the season and if we can convert that into more race wins, then we should have a car that is capable of challenging for the championship next season. I feel at home with the team and really can’t wait to see what next season has in store.”
Alex Tai, Virgin Racing Team Principal, said, “I’m absolutely delighted to announce our driver line up for next season and to welcome José María to the Virgin Racing family. Jose is a proven world champion who has performed at the highest level and shown great speed and consistency in every motorsport discipline that he has competed in. I have every confidence that he will be able to translate that success to Formula E. He will join Sam who, over the last two years, has consistently proven himself to be one of the fastest and most talented drivers on the grid. I am confident the combined strengths of Sam, José and our team will be a winning formula within a series requiring high degrees of driver skill, consistency and hard work. An additional attribute is the character of both drivers whose sporting approach importantly mirror my aims in this sport.”
Xavier Mestalen Pinon, Head of DS Performance, added: “José is a fantastic addition to Virgin Racing, he’s a world-class driver that has dominated WTCC for the past two seasons and is currently leading the ongoing season. He has worked with us closely at DS Performance on our season three car. After gaining third position in the Team Championship for our first year in FIA Formula E, we believe that he and Sam will form a strong partnership and make it possible to fight for the overall championship next season.”
The third season of the FIA Formula E Championship will start on 9th October in Hong Kong.