McLaren signs WEC champion and Le Mans winner Hirakawa as F1 reserve driver

Formula 1

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World Endurance Championship title holder and Le Mans 24 Hours winner Ryo Hirakawa has joined McLaren’s driver development programme.

Hirakawa will serve as one of the team’s reserve drivers in Formula 1 this year. His signing comes after IndyCar champion Alex Palou cut his ties with the team and chose to remain with Ganassi in the US series.

McLaren confirmed Hirakawa will continue to drive for Toyota in WEC, where he leads the championship he won last year with his team mates Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi.

The 29-year-old is also in his sixth season of racing in Japan’s Super Formula series, where he currently races against drivers including AlphaTauri racer Liam Lawson. Hirakawa has won four races in the series and has a best championship position of second.

McLaren has not indicated whether it plans to run Hirakawa in practice sessions, though his lack of F1 experience means doing so would count towards 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.”

Hirakawa said it was “an exciting prospect to work with such a respected team and I’m grateful to Zak [Brown, McLaren Racing CEO] 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.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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1 comments on “McLaren signs WEC champion and Le Mans winner Hirakawa as F1 reserve driver”

  1. A surprising addition, mainly because he’s a Toyota works driver, but even otherwise generally.

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