Formula 1

McLaren Welcomes Toyota’s Le Mans Winner Ryo Hirakawa as 2024 Reserve Driver

McLaren Racing has officially announced the induction of Ryo Hirakawa, the 2022 Toyota Le Mans 24 Hours champion, as their new reserve driver for 2024. Hirakawa’s arrival signifies a strategic addition to McLaren’s driver development program, contributing both on and off the track.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ryo Hirakawa’s Role at McLaren: Hirakawa, with his impressive racing background, will serve as McLaren’s reserve driver, participating in the team’s testing using the 2021 MCL35M car. Additionally, he will contribute to McLaren’s simulator program, enhancing the team’s preparation and development strategies.
  • Continuing Commitments: While joining McLaren, Hirakawa will maintain his primary role as a full-time driver for Toyota in the World Endurance Championship. His dual roles underscore the collaborative spirit between McLaren and Toyota Gazoo Racing.
  • Hirakawa’s Racing Credentials: Beyond his Le Mans victory, Hirakawa has showcased his skills in various racing formats, including being a runner-up in Japan’s Super Formula Championship in 2020 and securing wins in the Japanese F3 Championship and the Super GT trophy for Lexus in 2017.

As the F1 world turns its attention to the upcoming Japanese Grand Prix, McLaren’s new reserve driver Ryo Hirakawa shared his excitement about joining the team. He expressed gratitude to McLaren’s leadership, Zak Brown and Andrea Stella, and to Toyota Gazoo Racing, specifically acknowledging Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda, for supporting his dual commitments.

Team Principal Andrea Stella welcomed Hirakawa, praising his impressive track record and looking forward to the experience and insight he will bring to the team. Stella emphasized the collaborative relationship with Toyota Gazoo Racing, allowing Hirakawa to contribute significantly to McLaren while continuing his commitments in the World Endurance Championship.

Hirakawa’s racing career has been marked by remarkable achievements across different racing series. Not only did he and his teammates Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi win the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2022, but he has also proven his prowess in single-seater racing and in endurance championships.

For McLaren, the addition of Hirakawa comes after a series of collaborations and agreements with other teams and drivers. In 2023, McLaren shared reserve drivers Felipe Drugovich and Stoffel Vandoorne with Aston Martin and included Mercedes’ Mick Schumacher in their roster. Furthermore, McLaren is exploring the addition of current IndyCar star Pato O’Ward to its F1 reserve drivers for 2024, pending his super license acquisition.

This strategic move by McLaren reflects their commitment to building a robust and versatile driver pool, adapting to the dynamic nature of Formula 1 racing while nurturing talent across different motorsport disciplines. Hirakawa’s induction into the team not only strengthens their driver lineup but also signifies a fruitful collaboration between two of motorsport’s most esteemed entities, McLaren Racing and Toyota Gazoo Racing.

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