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Le Mans winner joins McLaren F1 as reserve driver

Ryo Hirakawa becomes the newest driver to join McLaren's ever growing roster

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

Hirakawa at the McLaren Technology Centre (Image Credit: @ryohirakawa on X)

The 29 year-old Japanese driver is currently competing in his second season of the World Endurance Championship. Racing for Toyota Gazoo Racing alongside Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley, he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year as well as the overall championship.

This year, the three came second at Le Mans, and are leading the championship standings with just one race to go.

Hirakawa’s new role at McLaren for 2024 will involve acting as a test and reserve driver for the Formula 1 team as a part of their development programme.

“I’m happy to have joined the McLaren F1 Team as a Reserve Driver,” Hirakawa commented. “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. 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.”

Comments from McLaren

McLaren’s Team Principal Andrea Stella said: “I’m pleased to welcome Ryo to McLaren Racing as a Formula 1 Reserve Driver to further strengthen our growing support driver pool. 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.”

Also speaking on this new signing, McLaren CEO Zak Brown couldn’t resist a dig at one of their former development drivers, Alex Palou.

“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.”

Feature Image Credit: @ryohirakawa on X

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