Hirakawa replaces Nakajima in 2022 Toyota WEC line-up

Toyota has officially named Ryo Hirakawa as Kazuki Nakajima's replacement in its line-up for the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship season.

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The 27-year-old, who won the SUPER GT title in 2017 and finished runner-up in the Super Formula points in 2020, will slot into Nakajima's seat in the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid alongside Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley as expected. 

The move was announced when Toyota unveiled its 2022 motorsport programme in Tokyo on Monday. 

The announcement also included news that Nakajima is retiring from the cockpit and will move into a management role with the Toyota Gazoo Racing WEC squad

Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez will defend their 2021 title in the #7 car.

Confirmation of the Hirakawa as part of the WEC squad follows the announcement ahead of November's WEC finale finale in Bahrain that Nakajima would not be part of the WEC driver roster in 2022.

Hirakawa's graduation to the WEC comes after evaluation tests at Portimao and then Barcelona this summer, followed by a further outing in the GR010 in Bahrain following the end of the season. 

“Of course, I’m really happy Toyota chose me to be part of the team,” Hirakawa told Motorsport.com. “In testing I did everything I could to try and improve and I think they appreciated that; thinking about the future they must have felt I could do a good job.  

“At the same, it’s huge pressure because it’s a world championship: the job I have to do is the same as in Japan, but the surroundings are different. 

"Everything is more professional: I have to learn a new car, new tracks, and this puts me in the ‘pressure zone’."

Hirakawa is a long-standing member of Toyota's development programme and was placed by the Japanese manufacturer with the TDS Racing LMP2 for programme encompassing the European Le Mans Series in 2016. 

In 2017, he was passed over for a chance to drive Toyota's third TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car at Le Mans in favour of Yuji Kunimoto, but he came back into contention for a seat with the WEC team after finishing runner-up in Super Formula in 2020 and coming within an ace of a second SUPER GT title.


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