McLaren signs WEC champion Ryo Hirakawa as reserve driver

McLaren signs WEC champion Ryo Hirakawa as reserve driver

McLaren Racing has signed 2022 Le Mans winner Ryo Hirakawa as their newest F1 reserve driver.

Ryo Hirakawa, who has won the World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours, has joined McLaren’s driver development program.

Hirakawa will be one of the team’s backup drivers in Formula One this year. This comes after IndyCar champion Alex Palou made way for him after breaking off his relationship with the team and deciding to stick with Ganassi in the US series.

The 29 year-old Japanese driver is currently competing in his second season of the World Endurance Championship.

Hirakawa, who co-won the WEC championship with teammates Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi last year, will continue racing for Toyota in the series, according to McLaren.

The three finished second at Le Mans this year and are currently in the lead in the championship standings with one race remaining.

The 29-year-old is also racing in his sixth season in the Super Formula series in Japan, where he currently battles against rivals like AlphaTauri driver Liam Lawson. Hirakawa has finished second in the championship standings and has won four races in the series.

“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,” he added. “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.”

Despite Hirakawa’s lack of F1 experience, McLaren has not stated if it intends to include him in practice sessions; nonetheless, doing so would count toward their allocation of sessions for new drivers.

“We are thankful to Toyota Gazoo Racing for their collaboration by allowing Ryo to take on the new role alongside his driving duties,” said McLaren team principal Andrea Stella.

“He 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.

“His wealth of experience will benefit the team in a number of areas as he joins our strong stable of drivers.”

McLaren CEO Zak Brown also made fun of one of their previous development drivers, Alex Palou, while discussing the latest deal.

“We have a few reserve drivers with the schedule as big as it is,” said Brown. “Obviously, we had a reserve driver that has decided not to show up here for the second half of the year.

“Ryo is a big talent. We want to give him the opportunity to test our older car but, if we need a reserve driver, we will make a determination.

“We have a few others under contract so in this day and age of F1, we need to have a small group of drivers and react if the situation presents itself where you need to put a driver in the car.”

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