McLaren have signed Japan’s 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Ryo Hirakawa as a Formula 1 reserve driver for next season, the team announced on Friday.
The 29-year-old won last year’s Le Mans with New Zealand’s Brendon Hartley and Switzerland’s Sebastien Buemi as well as the endurance world championship with Toyota, a series the trio currently lead in the Hypercar category.
McLaren said Hirakawa would support them in the simulator as well as track testing while continuing to race for Toyota in world endurance.
Hirakawa said: “I’m happy to have joined the McLaren F1 Team as a reserve driver. 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. 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,” he added.
“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,” Hirakawa concluded.
“I’m pleased to welcome Ryo to McLaren Racing as a Formula 1 reserve driver to further strengthen our growing support driver pool,” McLaren team boss, Andrea Stella, said.
“We are thankful to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing for their collaboration by allowing Ryo to take on the new role alongside his driving duties. 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,” Stella concluded.
McLaren, whose regular race drivers are Britain’s Lando Norris and Australian Oscar Piastri, also have access to Mercedes F1 reserve Mick Schumacher this season.
The former F1Champions had double IndyCar champion Alex Palou as another reserve but that deal ended when the Spaniard’s planned move to McLaren’s IndyCar team fell through. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Additional reporting by GrandPrix247)