Toyota Gazoo Racing Unveils Management and Driver Changes for 2022

8 December 2021

Toyota Gazoo Racing will enter the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with a strengthened management team and revised driver line-up.

Team development at Toyota Gazoo Racing is a continual process and the priority is on putting drivers first and creating a family-style environment. Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima will work together to accelerate this process and enhance the WEC project’s contribution to making ever-better cars.

Kobayashi will begin a new assignment as Team Principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing in WEC, parallel to his racing commitments. The two-time World Champion and 2021 Le Mans winner will bring a driver’s perspective to team leadership with a focus on strengthening the team for the Hypercar era.

Nakajima will move to Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe (TGR-E) in Cologne, Germany, in the new position of Vice Chairman. He will optimise the organisation’s driver-focused approach to WEC, alongside team and driver management responsibilities.

Kobayashi and Nakajima, who have been part of the Toyota motorsport family since competing with each other in Formula Toyota in 2003, will help ensure Toyota Gazoo Racing is prepared for a new WEC challenge, when multiple manufacturers enter the Hypercar class in 2023.

Behind the wheel, Kobayashi will join Mike Conway and José María López in the No7 GR010 Hybrid in 2022 for the defence of their World Championship and Le Mans crowns.

Sébastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley will again compete in the No8 GR010 Hybrid, with a new team-mate for 2022. Ryo Hirakawa, a rising star of Japanese racing who won the 2017 Super GT championship and has already tested the GR010 Hybrid, replaces Nakajima.

Completing the management team, is Yuichiro Haruna, who takes on the role of Project Director, alongside his similar role in the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team. These personnel changes will take effect from 1 January 2022.

Team quotes

Kamui Kobayashi: “Thank you to President Akio Toyoda, GR President Sato and Toyota Gazoo Racing for putting their trust in me. I will give everything to succeed in my new role, which is a big challenge and a great opportunity. I look forward to fighting for the World Championship as a driver and Team Principal. I will bring all my experience as a race driver to my new job, and I know I have a fantastic team who will support me in my mission. We are preparing for a new era of Hypercar competition in WEC, when many new manufacturers will join the fight, and Toyota Gazoo Racing is evolving to prepare ourselves for this new challenge. This new team structure is an important step for us to stay sharp and be ready for the next battle. I am pleased that Nakajima can stay within our team and I am sure his driver’s perspective will strengthen the management team at TGR-E. I look forward to working alongside him to make ever-better cars. With Hirakawa, we welcome the next generation of endurance driver and, with the support of the team and his fellow drivers, I know he will be a big success in WEC.”

Kazuki Nakajima: “I am delighted continue my journey with Toyota Gazoo Racing alongside my colleagues in the WEC team, which feels like a family to me. It is a big responsibility and I am very grateful to President Akio Toyoda, GR President Sato and Toyota Gazoo Racing for creating this position. I need to adapt to my new role within TGR-E but I already have a great relationship with many colleagues in Cologne, and I am looking forward to getting started. WEC is one of many exciting projects in which TGR-E is involved, all with the target of making ever-better cars. I will give all my strength to contribute to these projects, and strengthen TGR-E and the WEC project. After being a racing driver for nearly 20 years, I have experienced a lot in motorsport and it is exciting to bring this knowledge to my new task.”

Ryo Hirakawa: “I am thrilled to join the Toyota Gazoo Racing family in WEC, particularly to work alongside Sebastien and Brandon in the No8 car. I have already tested the GR010 Hybrid three times and I am becoming more and more familiar with the car. There is still plenty to learn and I am looking forward to the start of pre-season testing, so I can continue my development. The Le Mans 24 Hours has been a big goal for me in my career and I have already participated twice in LMP2. Now I can’t wait to race a Hypercar there and fight for victory. Thank you to everyone at Toyota and Toyota Gazoo Racing for their trust and support. I am honoured to be given this opportunity to replace Nakajima-san, who is a true legend in endurance racing.”

Ryo Hirakawa Profile

Born                      7 March 1994, Hiroshima, Japan

Lives                      Hiroshima, Japan

Height                    1.77m

Weight                   66kg

Career History

2008    All Japan Junior Kart Championship: 1st

2009    All Japan Kart Championship: 2nd

2010    Formula Challenge Japan: 6th

            Super FJ Japan: 1st

            Super FJ Okayama Series: 1st

2011    Formula Challenge Japan: 2nd (1 win)

            Formula 4 West Japan Series: 1st

2012    All-Japan Formula Three Championship: 1st (7 wins)

            Macau Grand Prix: DNF

            Porsche Carrera Cup Japan: 1st (7 wins)

            Formula Challenge Japan: 2nd (5 wins)

2013    Super Formula (Team Le Mans): 11th

            Inter Proto Series: 1st (2 wins)

2014    Super Formula (Team Le Mans): 8th

            Super GT (TOM’S): 11th

            Super Taikyu: 1st in ST-1 class (3 wins)

            Inter Proto Series: 1st (3 wins)

2015    Super Formula (Team Le Mans): 8th

            Super GT (TOM’S): 5th (2 wins)

            Inter Proto Series: 1st (3 wins)

2016    European Le Mans Series (Thiriet by TDS): 5th (2 wins)

            Le Mans 24 Hours (Thiriet by TDS): DNF

            Super GT (TOM’S): 9th

2017    European Le Mans Series (G-Drive): 4th (1 win)

            Le Mans 24 Hours (G-Drive): 39th (17th in LMP2)

            Super GT (TOM’S): 1st (2 wins)

2018    Super Formula (Team Impul): 5th

            Super GT (TOM’S): 2nd (1 win)

2019    Super Formula (Team Impul): 10th (1 win)

            Super GT (TOM’S): 2nd (1 win)

2020    Super Formula (Team Impul): 2nd (1 win)

            Super GT (TOM’S): 2nd (1 win)

2021    Super Formula (Team Impul): 4th

            Super GT (TOM’S): 7th

ENDS

Download this release as a PDF below

Toyota Gazoo Racing Unveils Management and Driver Changes for 2022

Images

Images are copyright free for editorial purposes only

Media enquiries

Please click here to see the press contacts at Toyota (GB):

Show Press Contacts

For further information, please contact:

David Crouch

01737367505 / 07909 900 085 or by email at david.crouch@tgb.toyota.co.uk

General, fleet and motorsport media enquiries

Please understand that our press team only deal with enquiries from media representatives.

Toyota and Lexus Press Releases

To receive all Toyota and Lexus press information, please select the box below.


To update your profile type in your email address and press return. MailChimp will then send you an email confirming your details and you will then have the opportunity of amending your details.

* indicates required
All Toyota/Lexus News