With Edinburgh's European hopes all but over after three losses from three matches, including last weekend in Paris, head coach Michael Bradley has made eight changes with the RaboDirect PRO12 derbies against Glasgow Warriors in mind.
Cairns has been absent since sustaining a knee injury in a pre-season match against Sale Sharks in August 2011, but featured for Melrose last weekend and is now back in the Edinburgh fold.
Also returning from injury from the first time since October are New Zealand centre Ben Atiga and Fiji back-row Netani Talei, while Georgian number eight Dimitri Basilaia has been named on the bench.
Bradley said: "We're delighted to welcome the timely return of these four players from injury, all of whom have the potential to make a significant contribution to our Heineken Cup and RaboDirect PRO12 campaigns at a crucial period in the season.
"It's important that they get up to speed as quickly as possible and put pressure on their peers for a place in the playing squad in some massive games coming up in the next two months.
"All of these players are straining at the leash, are desperate to get a win for Edinburgh Rugby and to put in a performance worthy of reselection."
Full-back Greig Tonks is the only reselected back as Lee Jones and Dougie Fife come in for the injured Tom Brown (knee) and Tim Visser, on the wings.
Piers Francis has been handed his first start at fly-half after making his debut off the bench last weekend. Scrum-half Chris Leck also comes in.
The final change comes in the pack as Robert McAlpine replaces Sean Cox at lock.
Edinburgh beat Racing 48-47 at Murrayfield last season.
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