McLaren has secured the services of 2022 Le Mans 24 Hour winner Ryo Hirakawa as one of its reserve drivers for 2024.
The team was on the lookout for a new reserve option following Alex Palou’s decision not to honor a contract to join on the IndyCar side, with Pato O’Ward also expected to be part of that pool of drivers. At the Japanese Grand Prix, McLaren announced the current Toyota driver in the World Endurance Championship and Super Formula as another reserve from next year onwards.
“I’m happy to have joined the McLaren F1 Team as a reserve driver,” Hirakawa said. “It’s an exciting prospect to work with such a respected team and I’m grateful to Zak (Brown, CEO) and Andrea (Stella, team principal) for the opportunity. I’ve already met the team and experienced the simulator at MTC (McLaren Technology Centre) 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.”
The 29-year-old won the WEC title in the same year as his Le Mans triumph and also has the 2017 Super GT championship to his name. McLaren team principal Andrea Stella suggests he will continue showing his versatility across categories next season.
“I’m pleased to welcome Ryo to McLaren Racing as a Formula 1 reserve driver to further strengthen our growing support driver pool,” 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.”