McLaren has confirmed that Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Ryō Hirakawa will join the Woking-based squad as a reserve driver in 2024 as part of its driver development program.
Hirakawa has an impressive motorsport CV courtesy of his time racing for Toyota in the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes an overall victory in the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Japanese driver also won this year’s Six Hours of Portimão and leads the 2023 WEC Drivers’ Standings with one race remaining alongside co-drivers Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley in the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercar.
The 2023 WEC campaign has also seen Hirakawa and his co-drivers finish runner-up in four of this year’s races, including the centenary 24 Hours of Le Mans – which saw Hirakawa heart-breakingly spin whilst chasing the winning Ferrari – en route to securing the Manufacturers’ title for Toyota.
Beyond his endurance exploits, Hirakawa has Super Formula (sitting fourth in this year’s Drivers’ Standings) and Super GT (champion in 2017) experience in Japan, and will now add Formula 1 development to his CV with McLaren next year.
Hirakawa’s single-seater racing has also seen him win titles in the JAF West Japan F4 series and All-Japan F3 Championship.
His duties in papaya will include simulator development work at the McLaren Technology Centre and on-track testing in the MCL35M whilst continuing to race for Toyota in the 2024 World Endurance Championship.
“I’m happy to have joined the McLaren F1 Team as a reserve driver,” Hirakawa said.
“It’s an exciting prospect to work with such a respected team and I’m grateful to Zak and Andrea for the opportunity.
“I’ve already met the team and experienced the simulator at MTC which has allowed me to hit the ground running.
“I’m now fully prepared and focused for the remainder of 2023.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to express two points of appreciation.
“The first one goes to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. I am grateful to them for allowing me to serve as a driver for the two teams.
“The second thank you goes to MORIZO-san (Akio Toyoda), who has supported me as a driver.
“As a driver himself, his advice was that I should drive any car that gives me the chance to develop.
“I therefore want to make the most of this opportunity and return the favor by showing him how I have grown.”
McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella has expressed his pleasure at bringing Hirakwa into the McLaren driving pool, saying that the team is ” thankful to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing for their collaboration by allowing Ryo to take on the new role alongside his driving duties.”
He continued, saying that Hirawaka has “an impressive record on track winning Le Mans as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“We look forward to working closely with Ryo who has already spent time on the simulator at MTC,” Stella added.
The 29-year-old Japanese driver’s addition to the McLaren development driver program sees him join the likes of Mexican Pato O Ward – who races for the papaya squad in IndyCar.
Hirakawa’s 2023 WEC campaign concludes with the 8 Hours of Bahrain on the 2-4 of November.