Hirakawa: Toyota WEC test is “quite a big chance”

Ryo Hirakawa has acknowledged his upcoming test outing in Toyota’s Le Mans Hypercar at Portimao this month is a “big chance” to revive his career on the international stage.

Hirakawa: Toyota WEC test is “quite a big chance”

Toyota announced earlier this week that SUPER GT champion and Super Formula ace Hirakawa will get the chance to drive the GR010 Hybrid in a three-day test following the second round of the World Endurance Championship season.

It comes some four years after he was turned down for a seat in Toyota’s third entry for the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2017, in which time he has established himself as one of the undoubted top drivers on the domestic Japanese scene.

Hirakawa – who hasn’t raced regularly outside of Japan since the 2017 European Le Mans Series season – said the test call-up was a surprise but also serves as an acknowledgement of his performances in SUPER GT and Super Formula in recent years.

“I arrived in Cologne [where TGR Europe is based] on Sunday, and I have been in the simulator,” Hirakawa told Autosport. “I could get a feel for the car, and the engineers explained a bit about how to drive the car and what the important things are.

"It will help to be with the team for all the Portimao weekend to get used to the atmosphere of the team and how they do things.

"I’m excited. I have been trying to get into the WEC, but I didn’t really expect to get this chance, actually. It’s a really nice feeling to come back.

“The people within the team are more or less the same as they were [in 2017], so I still have that relationship. It will be good to show them [what I can do].”

He added: "It’s difficult to adapt to [racing in] Europe, because it’s so different to what we have in Japan. It’s much more stressful working with the team, you have to be really good all the time, speaking English, different culture… you just to have to adapt, or there’s no chance in the future. 

"I have to show the young drivers in Japan that I can do it, that Japanese drivers can do it."

Taking part in the Portimao test means that Hirakawa will miss the Sugo round of Super Formula on 20 June, owing to Japan’s strict 14-day quarantine rule for all arrivals into the country.

On the significance of the test for his career, Hirakawa said: “It’s quite a big chance. It’s difficult to get a chance like this, even if you are doing a good job in Japan, so it’s a big opportunity to race in Europe and around the world.

“I don’t know what my chances are for the future, but I am skipping Sugo [Super Formula], so the importance is quite big.

“We had many discussions with Toyota before deciding this, but I wanted to take the WEC chance even if meant missing a race in Japan. It wasn’t easy, because I am fighting for the championship. You don’t get this kind of chance twice, so I have to sacrifice something.”

 

Super Formula title chances hanging by a thread

Hirakawa sits second in the Super Formula standings with four races remaining, but some way behind Honda driver Tomoki Nojiri, who kicked off the season with back-to-back wins at Fuji Speedway and Suzuka.

The Impul driver acknowledges that another win for Nojiri at Sugo while he is absent would almost certainly spell the end of his title hopes in the single-seater series.

“If Nojiri wins there, then I have no chance,” he conceded. “Then there are two races at Motegi, where I have a lot of confidence, so I think my chances there are quite high. I think I have to win at least two [of the final three races], but I have confidence I can do that.”

shares
comments

Related video

Hirakawa handed surprise Toyota WEC hypercar test chance

Previous article

Hirakawa handed surprise Toyota WEC hypercar test chance

Next article

BMW considering LMDh, Electric GT as post-Formula E motorsport options

BMW considering LMDh, Electric GT as post-Formula E motorsport options
Load comments
How Alpine's stunted Portimao charge helped Toyota to keep clear Plus

How Alpine's stunted Portimao charge helped Toyota to keep clear

Despite going stride for stride for pace at Portimao, Alpine’s grandfathered LMP1 couldn’t convert pole position into a sustained victory fight against Toyota. And due to rules and car limitations that are set in stone, the French manufacturer will be searching for solutions in its own battle of endurance

WEC
Jun 14, 2021
Toyota hits the ton — charting 100 world championship sportscar starts Plus

Toyota hits the ton — charting 100 world championship sportscar starts

The Japanese manufacturer is celebrating its 100th world championship prototype start in this weekend's Portimao 8 Hours round of the World Endurance Championship. Here are the major milestones on the road to three figures since the earliest low-key days of its entry into the Group C arena nearly 40 years ago

WEC
Jun 12, 2021
The philosophical problems the WEC's new Hypercar class is already facing Plus

The philosophical problems the WEC's new Hypercar class is already facing

OPINION: Most of the column inches after the World Endurance Championship's opener were centred around the relative pace of the Hypercar class and the LMP2s, but there's another question that needs addressing in order for the new division to have a successful future

WEC
May 7, 2021
How stumbling Toyota drew first blood in the WEC's new era Plus

How stumbling Toyota drew first blood in the WEC's new era

Amid concerns that the new Hypercar class would be upstaged on debut by the spec LMP2 machines at Spa, Toyota delivered the pole and victory that the vast majority of observers expected. But neither car had a clean run, which gave the grandfathered Alpine LMP1 an unexpected shot at glory

WEC
May 4, 2021
Seven things to watch in the 2021 World Endurance Championship Plus

Seven things to watch in the 2021 World Endurance Championship

Beyond the slender grid of headline-grabbing hypercars, there are numerous subplots and changes to look out for in the new season of the WEC, which gets underway at Spa this weekend. Here's the seven key things you need to know about

WEC
Apr 30, 2021
What to expect from sportscar racing's bold new Hypercar era Plus

What to expect from sportscar racing's bold new Hypercar era

A slim field of three cars will be entered in the Hypercar class for the first round of the World Endurance Championship's post-LMP1 age. But there are plenty of reasons for optimism with the new wave of manufacturer entries and competing class philosophies just around the corner

WEC
Apr 29, 2021
How Aston Martin Racing scaled new heights in the Prodrive era Plus

How Aston Martin Racing scaled new heights in the Prodrive era

The 2021 World Endurance Championship kicks off at Spa this weekend, but for the first time since its 2012 inception there will be no works Aston Martins in the GTE-Pro class. As its new era in Formula 1 begins, Aston leaves behind a legacy of success courtesy of its Prodrive-run factory programme that was a hit from the word go in 2005

WEC
Apr 27, 2021
How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname Plus

How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname

Sportscar racing lost one of it's greatest talents 20 years ago today when Bob Wollek was knocked from his bicycle prior to the Sebring 12 Hours. The enigmatic Frenchman never won the Le Mans 24 Hours, but many still remember today why 'Brilliant Bob' became a legend

WEC
Mar 16, 2021