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WEC champion Hirakawa wondered if he was right for a job at Toyota

Hirakawa was chosen instead Kazuki Nakajima On the back of his successes in both Super Formula and SUPER GT in recent seasons, this season he will be riding the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid, joining Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley.

The trio won double points at the Le Mans round in June and at Fuji in September, before finishing second behind sister car #7 at this month’s Bahrain finale, giving Toyota its fourth consecutive WEC crown. .

Reflecting on this year’s success, Hirakawa was able to deliver after struggling to get used to the GR010 Hybrid, which is considerably heavier and has less downforce than the car he was used to racing in Japan.

“I didn’t drive well in the first few tests. I was very nervous and under pressure,” the 28-year-old told Autosport.

“But I had a lot of help from my team and my teammates, car #8 but also car #7. Thanks to them, I was able to catch up quickly.

“A year ago, when they first announced that I would be joining the team, I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I didn’t have the confidence.

“This year we managed to achieve our goal of winning Le Mans and the championship.

Hirakawa got his chance to join Toyota’s WEC line-up five years after being denied a ride in Toyota’s third LMP1 car at Le Mans in 2017, replacing compatriot Yuji Kunimoto. That was it.

He bounced back from that disappointment and won the SUPER GT title that year with Nick Cassidy, and a particularly impressive 2020 season opened the door for a return to the Cologne-based team.

When asked about the significance of winning the title after 2017, Hirakawa replied as follows.The car is different from a few years ago, but it’s still similar, so I was worried that I couldn’t drive well with that car. [TS050 Hybrid] and with this team. That’s why I was so nervous.

“Also, the teams, especially the drivers, are very high level and it’s not easy to match them. Even at Le Mans we had to push as much as possible to match them. was a great experience’, to push myself to a higher level. ”

Speaking in Bahrain, Pascal Vasselon, technical director of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe, described Hirakawa’s performances at Le Mans and Fuji as “really, really great”, and the Japanese driver was one of the fastest-moving average lap times at La Sarthe. He pointed out that it was “always within 1/10”.

Hartley also spoke enthusiastically in praise of Hirakawa in the wake of the #8 Crew’s title victory over Alpine, who came out in a tie at the weekend in Bahrain.

“I think the really important moment for me was Le Mans, the step Ryo took at Le Mans under pressure,” said the New Zealander. “He couldn’t sleep on a nervous Friday and put in an amazing performance. It was an important moment in our championship.

“After that, to go to Fuji for Ryo’s home race, our home race, he was a teacher there, telling us where the grips were.

“As a crew, I really felt that we had a near-perfect race at Fuji. WEC champion Hirakawa wondered if he was right for a job at Toyota

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