Nakajima retires from racing, takes on new Toyota WEC role

Long-time Toyota driver Kazuki Nakajima has announced his retirement from racing following the end of his tenure in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Listen to this article

It was announced last month on the eve of the final round of the WEC season in Bahrain that Nakajima would not be part of Toyota’s line-up for the 2022 season.

Toyota confirmed on Monday in its 2022 motorsport presentation in Tokyo that Ryo Hirakawa will take over Nakajima’s seat aboard the #8 GR010 Hybrid alongside Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley next season.

Nakajima was linked with a return to racing in Japan’s two premier categories SUPER GT and Super Formula full-time in 2022, but instead the 36-year-old will act as Vice-Chairman of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe.

His focus at TGRE, formerly Toyota Motorsport GmbH, will be to "enhance the organisation and optimise its driver-focused approach to WEC, alongside team and driver management responsibilities", according to a statement issued by the Japanese manufacturer.

It brings down the curtain on a career that spanned three season in Formula 1 with Williams and nine in the WEC with Toyota, which included three victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours and two WEC titles.

"I started off as a racing driver when I was 11 years old, so it's been 25 years," Nakajima said. "When I was 18 years old, I made my debut as a Toyota driver in Formula Toyota. Now I'm 36, so since my debut it's been half of my lifetime I've been driving for Toyota and been looked after by them.

"I've had many experiences with them, and it was thanks to that environment I was able to show more than my original strength, so I'm very grateful for that, and for the support I had from the team staff and the fans."

Kamui Kobayashi meanwhile will combine his driving duties with a new role as team principal - a new position designed, according to Toyota's statement, "bring a driver’s perspective to team leadership with a specific focus on enhancing the team for the Hypercar era". 

Toyota has also revealed that Yuichiro Haruna will become the project director of the WEC squad alongside the similar position he holds at the manufacturer's World Rally Championship team.

shares
comments
Hirakawa replaces Nakajima in 2022 Toyota WEC line-up
Previous article

Hirakawa replaces Nakajima in 2022 Toyota WEC line-up

Next article

Kobayashi named Toyota WEC team principal

Kobayashi named Toyota WEC team principal
Why the WEC should make space for modern garagistes in 2023 Prime

Why the WEC should make space for modern garagistes in 2023

OPINION: There is plenty of excitement over the glut of manufacturers tackling the Hypercar class of the FIA World Endurance Championship this season. The selection committee is set to face headaches over who it decides to admit and who gets turned away from the 2023 entry list, but history tells us that the smaller entrants have a place

WEC
Jan 9, 2023
Motorsport.com writers' most memorable moments of 2022 Prime

Motorsport.com writers' most memorable moments of 2022

The season just gone was a memorable one for many of our staff writers, who are fortunate enough to cover motorsport around the world. Here are our picks of the best (and in some cases, most eventful) from 2022.

Formula 1
Dec 31, 2022
Is Qatar the price motorsport fans have to pay? Prime

Is Qatar the price motorsport fans have to pay?

OPINION: Fresh from hosting a controversial 2022 football World Cup, Qatar has added its name to the 2024 World Endurance Championship calendar. Although questions may be asked about its presence on the calendar, is it simply the price to pay for having a healthy racing championship?

WEC
Dec 21, 2022
How Toyota defeated Alpine for the 2022 WEC title Prime

How Toyota defeated Alpine for the 2022 WEC title

Toyota #8 trio Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa outscored their rivals in the last season before the World Endurance Championship’s top class gets ultra-competitive. Here's how their Hypercar battle with Alpine and the remaining class tussles played out in LMP2, GTE Pro and GTE Am

WEC
Dec 5, 2022
The long road to convergence for sportscar racing's new golden age Prime

The long road to convergence for sportscar racing's new golden age

The organisers of the World Endurance Championship and IMSA SportsCar Championship worked together to devise the popular new LMDh rule set. But to turn it from an idea into reality, some serious compromises were involved - both from the prospective LMDh entrants and those with existing Le Mans Hypercar projects...

IMSA
Nov 25, 2022
How Porsche's Le Mans legend changed the game Prime

How Porsche's Le Mans legend changed the game

The 956 set the bar at the dawn of Group C 40 years ago, and that mark only rose higher through the 1980s, both in the world championship and in the US. It and its successor, the longer-wheelbase 962, are arguably the greatest sportscars of all time.

WEC
Aug 25, 2022
Why BMW shouldn't be overlooked on its return to prototypes Prime

Why BMW shouldn't be overlooked on its return to prototypes

OPINION: While the focus has been on the exciting prospect of Ferrari vs Porsche at the Le Mans 24 Hours next year, BMW’s factory return to endurance racing should not be ignored. It won't be at the French classic next year as it focuses efforts on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, but could be a dark horse in 2024 when it returns to La Sarthe with the crack WRT squad.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2022
The history lessons Peugeot should have learned on its return Prime

The history lessons Peugeot should have learned on its return

The Peugeot 9X8 will make its FIA World Endurance Championship debut at Monza this weekend. The French manufacturer has gone radical and will be hoping it doesn’t need to overhaul its contender, as it did with its first Le Mans challenger…

WEC
Jul 8, 2022