There will be several changes at Toyota Gazoo Racing, ahead of the upcoming FIA World Endurance Championship season.
Regarding the drivers, there is no change in car #7, with Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway going out to defend their World Championship, while Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley will continue in car #8. Buemi and Hartley will have a new Japanese teammate in the shape of Ryo Hirakawa.
27-year-old Hirakawa has many years of experience in the Super Formula series in Japan, where he has fought for the championship several times – but has missed out on the title so far, finishing on the annoying second place in 2020. He has also raced in Super GT, where he won the 2017 title, and finished second in the three following seasons.
Hirakawa has LMP2 experience from 2016 and 2017, where he raced for TDS Racing, including two Le Mans starts.
This won’t be the only change. Kazuki Nakajima announced his retirement after the 2021 season, and will become vice chairman for Toyota Gazoo racing Europe, with extra focus on FIA WEC. So he will still be involved in the team.
Kamui Kobayashi will have a dual focus in the upcoming season. On top of being a driver, he will be the new team principal for the whole of Toyota Gazoo Racing in the FIA WEC. So it will be interesting to see, how he juggles these two roles, while being in the car for 33% of the time.
2022 will be the season for the GR010 Hybrid car, which is their take on a Hypercar. We still don’t know, exactly how many competitors are going to race against them next year. Alpine Matmut Elf was the only full season team in 2021, and they will be back in 2022. Glickenhaus Racing has said that they will enter one car for the full 2022 season, and then we have the Peugeot Sport programme bubbling – but will still know the exact starting date for that programme just yet.
The FIA WEC season 2022 is scheduled to start in the middle of March at Sebring International Raceway.