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Toyota faces dilemma over WEC junior Miyata's 2024 plans

Toyota WEC Challenge driver Ritomo Miyata looked nailed on for a European racing programme in 2024 but schedule clashes with Super GT have given it a headache over its new protege.

Ritomo Miyata, VANTELIN TEAM TOM’S

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

When Miyata was unveiled earlier this year as Toyota’s latest Japanese protege in the World Endurance Championship, he was optimistic his new role wouldn’t prevent him from continuing to race in Super GT with the TOM’S squad.

But hopes of being able to race in both championships were dashed when the 2024 Super GT schedule was revealed, featuring two clashes with WEC races: Suzuka (31 August-1 September) falls on the same weekend as the Austin WEC round, while, as per this year, the Motegi season finale conflicts with the WEC’s Bahrain visit (2-3 November).

Initially, it was expected that Miyata would forgo Super GT in favour of racing in Europe, possibly in the WEC’s new LMGT3 class.

However, following recent meetings between senior Toyota staff and TOM’S, it now appears possible the 24-year-old could stay in Super GT after all, although the driver himself recently told Autosport that nothing is decided yet.

“Toyota has been supporting me a lot trying to find a seat for next season, but I still don’t know what opportunities there are,” Miyata said. “There are clashes with Super GT and WEC, and the WEC won’t have LMP2 outside of Le Mans.

“Of course if Toyota gives me the chance to race in Europe, I want to do it even if I can’t race in Super GT. But even this year, I can’t do the rookie test in Bahrain because of a clash with the final round of Super GT at Motegi. Everything is difficult, but let’s see.”

 

Miyata leaving would pose a major headache for TOM’S, which has had to contend with the exits of Nick Cassidy, Ryo Hirakawa and Sacha Fenestraz in the last three years - and just as Miyata and Sho Tsuboi have hit their stride as team-mates in the #36 car.

It had been suggested that TOM’S would recruit a driver from overseas in the event of losing Miyata, but it’s possible that the bitter of experience of 2022, when Tsuboi shared a car with Giuliano Alesi, may have made Toyota reluctant to risk pairing Tsuboi with a rookie again.

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Even if he doesn’t race in the WEC, it still seems likely that Miyata will attend the races that don’t clash with Super GT, and potentially turn some laps of the GR010 HYBRID during the Le Mans test day, which, assuming it takes place the week before the race, no longer clashes with the third round of the season at Suzuka.

A programme in the European Le Mans Series, which hasn’t yet announced its 2024 calendar, could provide an alternative avenue for Miyata to gain some experience of European tracks, including Le Mans, without sacrificing his ambitions in Super GT. 

Motorsport.tv is showing all qualifying sessions and races for the 2023 SUPER GT season. For more information, click here.

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