Hirakawa was given his first alternative aboard a Toyota top-class prototype in 4 years in June when he drove the GR010 Hybrid in a three-day check following the Portimao FIA World Endurance Championship spherical.
Now it has been introduced that Hirakawa will be a part of Toyota once more for one more non-public check at Barcelona on September 22-24.
This date falls in a one-month break between subsequent month’s Sugo Tremendous GT spherical and the penultimate race of the Tremendous Method season at Motegi in October, which means Hirakawa is not going to need to miss any extra races from both of his home campaigns.
The 27-year-old was pressured to sit down out the latest Tremendous Method spherical at Sugo in June owing to Japan’s strict 14-day quarantine necessities.
Hirakawa is unable to take part within the WEC rookie check in Bahrain in early November owing to a conflict with the penultimate spherical of the Tremendous GT season at Motegi.
Hirakawa getting a second alternative within the GR010 Hybrid will solely serve to strengthen the view that there’s a severe likelihood of him being added to Toyota’s WEC roster in 2022.
Clearly, the Portimao check again in June wasn’t only for enjoyable, and even merely a ‘properly finished’ present from Toyota for an outstanding 2020 season in Japan – Hirakawa critically compromised his Tremendous Method title possibilities by skipping the Sugo race to be current in Portugal.
Hirakawa will need to have made a superb impression on that event to earn one other invite. And the 2017 Tremendous GT champion equally in all probability wouldn’t put himself by means of the rigmarole of travelling to Europe in the midst of a pandemic and quarantining for 2 weeks upon his return to Japan if he didn’t really feel there was an actual likelihood of a race drive.
So, if there’s an actual prospect of Hirakawa of leaving Japan and switching full-time to WEC, it begs the apparent query of how he may slot into what seems to be set to stay a two-car Toyota set-up.
Toyota group director Rob Leupen let slip after Kenta Yamashita’s spectacular Le Mans 24 Hours debut final yr that the then-reigning Tremendous GT champion might be the inheritor to Kazuki Nakajima if issues continued to go properly, however that was earlier than Yamashita basically voluntarily gave up his likelihood after a short spell residing in Germany previous to the pandemic.
There’s a sure logic to a straight swap between Hirakawa and Nakajima, with the latter returning to Tremendous Method and Tremendous GT. However it would in all probability boil right down to which drivers’ contracts expire when – and there’s no less than one driver whose deal is up on the finish of the yr.
Within the run-up to final weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours, Jose Maria Lopez revealed that at the moment doesn’t have a contract for 2022.
Talking to Motorsport.com’s Latin American version, Lopez mentioned: “It is nonetheless very early within the yr and clearly I am within the Toyota household and if I proceed, I need to do it with them. It is extra than simply logical, it is my want and all the pieces I would like.
“Then we’ve to see from the group and a variety of issues exterior of that contract that take time, so hopefully afterward we are able to end and proceed and ensure our continuity in some unspecified time in the future.”
We’ll have to attend and see how the items fall, however what’s sure for now’s that subsequent month’s check gives Hirakawa a prized likelihood to show past doubt that he ought to be driving a Toyota hypercar full-time subsequent season.
Further reporting by Federico Faturos