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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Nakajima retires, changed by Hirakawa in Toyota WEC lineup

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The retirement of former Williams Method 1 driver Nakajima and his transfer into a brand new function of vice-chairman of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe had been introduced when the Japanese producer unveiled its 2022 motorsport programme in Tokyo on Monday.

It included affirmation that his alternative within the two-car squad of Toyota GR010 HYBRID Le Mans Hypercars for subsequent season’s WEC shall be Tremendous Method frontrunner Ryo Hirakawa.

The 27-year-old will slot into Nakajima’s seat alongside Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley within the #8 automotive, whereas Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez will defend their title in #7.

PLUS: Why Le Mans didn’t decide Toyota’s WEC title outcome in 2021

An extra function was additionally introduced for Kobayashi: he has been named as staff principal, a brand new place designed, based on Toyota’s assertion, to “convey a driver’s perspective to staff management with a selected give attention to enhancing the staff for the Hypercar period”.

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Information that Nakajima is hanging up his helmet follows the announcement prior to last month’s 2021 WEC finale in Bahrain that he could be leaving the Toyota WEC line-up after 9 seasons, which included his hat-trick of Le Mans wins in 2017-19 and a pair of titles in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

Nakajima’s future as a driver was left open concurrently a future function throughout the WEC operation run by the TGRE organisation in Cologne was strongly hinted at.

He outlined a need to proceed racing in Japan, however a possible Tremendous Method seat at TOM’S with which he has contested partial seasons over the previous 4 years has gone to Giuliano Alesi, son of F1 legend Jean.

His focus at TGRE, previously Toyota Motorsport GmbH, shall be to “improve the organisation and optimise its driver-focused strategy to WEC, alongside staff and driver administration duties”, the communique learn.

Nakajima retires as a three-time Le Mans winner with Toyota

Picture by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Nakajima stated: “I need to specific my gratitude to my mother and father, who gave me the possibility to get began in racing, and once I was 18 years {old}, I made my debut as a Toyota driver in Method Toyota.

“Now I am 36, so since my debut it has been half of my lifetime I have been driving for Toyota and sorted by them.

“I’ve had many experiences with them, and it was because of that surroundings I used to be capable of present greater than my unique energy, so I am very grateful for that, and for the assist I had from the staff employees and the followers.”

Hirakawa comes into the WEC line-up as anticipated after robust performances in two analysis exams on the Algarve circuit after which Barcelona over the summer time on the wheel of a GR010.

“In fact, I’m actually comfortable Toyota selected me to be a part of the staff,” Hirakawa advised Autosport.

“In testing I did all the pieces I might to attempt to enhance and I believe they appreciated that; serious about the longer term they will need to have felt I might do an excellent job.

“On the identical, it’s enormous strain as a result of it’s a world championship: the job I’ve to do is similar as in Japan, however the environment are totally different.

“All the pieces is extra skilled: I’ve to be taught a brand new automotive, new tracks, and this places me within the ‘strain zone’.”

Hirakawa will take up the vacant WEC seat after impressing in testing

Hirakawa will take up the vacant WEC seat after impressing in testing

Picture by: Masahide Kamio

Hirakawa is a long-standing member of Toyota’s growth programme and was positioned by the Japanese producer with the TDS Racing LMP2 squad for programme encompassing the European Le Mans Sequence in 2016.

He got here again into rivalry for a seat with the WEC staff after ending runner-up in Tremendous Method in 2020 with Workforce Impul.

Toyota has additionally revealed that Yuichiro Haruna will turn into the challenge director of the WEC squad alongside the same place he holds on the producer’s World Rally Championship staff.

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