On the eve of the final round of the WEC season in Bahrain it was announced 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.