Ryō Hirakawa (平川亮, Hirakawa Ryō, born 7 March 1994) is a Japanese racing driver who is currently competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship for Toyota Gazoo Racing. He also competes in the Japanese Super Formula Championship for Toyota, and previously competed in the Autobacs Super GT Series, where he was the GT500 class champion in 2017.

Early career

Born in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, Hirakawa began his racing career in karting at the age of thirteen and raced in various local championships. In just his second year of karting, he won the 2008 All-Japan Junior Kart Championship, before progressing to the KF2 category in 2009, where he finished third in the All-Japan Kart Championship and 32nd in the Asia-Pacific Championship.[1][2]

After graduating from the Formula Toyota Racing School, Hirakawa graduated to single-seaters in 2010, competing primarily in the Formula Challenge Japan series. In his first season, he finished sixth in the series standings, finishing on the podium two times in eleven races.[3] He won his first race in the Super FJ category, and won the JAF Regional Championship Super FJ Okayama Series title at 16 years, 8 months of age. Hirakawa also contested the final three rounds in the 2010 Formula BMW Pacific season, as a guest driver. He recorded a best finish of fourth place at Okayama.[4][5]

He remained in Formula Challenge Japan for 2011, winning his first race in the sixth round at Fuji Speedway. He finished the year second in the championship standings behind future Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT driver Takamoto Katsuta.[6] That same year, Hirakawa won the JAF Formula 4 West Series Championship, becoming the youngest champion at 17 years, 8 months of age.

In 2012, Hirakawa competed for a third season in Formula Challenge Japan,[7] and simultaneously stepped up to the All-Japan Formula Three Championship with Team RSS,[8] as well as the Porsche Carrera Cup Japan with a Porsche junior scholarship.

He won his debut race in Japanese F3, and seven of the first nine races of the season, en route to clinching the championship at the twelfth round in Sportsland Sugo.[9] After the Japanese F3 season concluded, Hirakawa made his debut in the Macau Grand Prix with RSS, qualifying 24th and retiring from the race due to a collision.[10] In Porsche Carrera Cup Japan, Hirakawa won seven consecutive races, and clinched the series championship with two races remaining. He became the youngest ever champion in Japanese F3 and Carrera Cup Japan, at 18 years of age.[11] And in his third FCJ season, Hirakawa won five races, and finished second in the championship to Nobuharu Matsushita, after both drivers finished with the same number of points and race wins.

Super Formula and Super GT career

Super Formula

2013–2015

Hirakawa joined the Toyota Young Driver Program (TDP) and made his Super Formula Championship debut in 2013 with the Toyota-powered Team LeMans. At 19 years of age, Hirakawa was the youngest driver in the championship. He finished his debut season 11th in the championship standings, with a best finish of fourth at the double-header finale at Suzuka Circuit. That same year, Hirakawa tested an IndyCar for Dale Coyne Racing at Sonoma Raceway.[12]

In 2014, he scored his first Super Formula podium finish in the 13 July race at Fuji Speedway, finishing second after running off track while leading on the final lap. Kazuki Nakajima claimed the race victory. Hirakawa improved to eighth in the championship.[13] Hirakawa remained at Team LeMans for 2015, joined by ex-Formula One driver Kamui Kobayashi. Hirakawa finished eighth in the championship for the second consecutive season, recording five top eight finishes.[14]

2018–present

Hirakawa driving for Team Impul at Autopolis in 2018, where he took his first Super Formula pole position.

After two seasons away from the series, Hirakawa rejoined the Super Formula grid in 2018, driving for Team Impul alongside Yuhi Sekiguchi. He won his first pole position at the second round in Autopolis, but the race was cancelled due to heavy rain and fog.[15] He went on to record consecutive podium finishes at Motegi and Okayama, and finished a career-best fifth in the drivers' championship.[16] In the fifth round of the 2019 season, Hirakawa scored his first career victory at Motegi.[17] Despite the breakthrough victory, he failed to score points in five out of the first six races, and dropped to tenth in the championship standings.[18]

The start of the 2020 season was delayed until September due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Hirakawa won the first race of the season from pole at Motegi.[19] He finished fourth and second in the following races at Okayama and Sugo, respectively, to build an early points lead. But after two consecutive non-scoring results, Hirakawa conceded the points lead, and would finish runner-up in the championship to Naoki Yamamoto by just two points.[20]

Hirakawa failed to win a race in 2021, but scored two second place finishes at Suzuka and finished fourth in the championship, helping Team Impul win the teams' title.[21][22] He began the 2022 season by winning the opening round at Fuji, and the fourth round at Autopolis.

Super GT

2014–2016

Hirakawa made his Super GT debut in 2014 with Lexus team TOM's, substituting for Kazuki Nakajima in the team's No. 36 car for two races as Nakajima fulfilled commitments for Toyota in the World Endurance Championship. He recorded top ten finishes in his two races at Fuji and Autopolis.

He made his full-time debut in 2015 for TOM's, driving the No. 37 KeePer-sponsored car alongside Andrea Caldarelli. He won his first race in just his third career start at Okayama, then won again in the season finale at Motegi. Hirakawa and Caldarelli finished fifth in the championship. Hirakawa would be joined by James Rossiter for the 2016 season. They recorded podium finishes in the first two rounds of the season, but finished ninth in the drivers' championship.

2017–2019

Hirakawa became the youngest Japanese-born GT500 champion aboard the Lexus LC 500 of TOM's in 2017.

For 2017, Toyota changed models to the new Lexus LC 500, and Hirakawa was joined at the No. 37 TOM's car by Nick Cassidy. The duo of Hirakawa and Cassidy won the opening round at Okayama, leading an all-Lexus sweep of the top six positions.[23] They won again from pole position in the penultimate round at Chang International Circuit in Thailand, before clinching the GT500 championship with a second place finish at the finale at Motegi. Hirakawa and Cassidy finished the year with four podiums, and a perfect record of eight points-paying finishes. At 23 years of age, both Hirakawa and Cassidy became the youngest GT500 champions in series history, with Hirakawa holding the record for the youngest Japanese born GT500 champion.[11]

Hirakawa and Cassidy would seek to defend their championships in 2018, but faced strong competition from an improved Honda fleet led by Team Kunimitsu and their drivers, Naoki Yamamoto and newcomer Jenson Button. The reigning champions won the penultimate round in Autopolis, but fell short of the championship by three points, as Team Kunimitsu, Yamamoto, and Button won their first titles.[24]

In 2019, Hirakawa and Cassidy once again finished second in the drivers' championship, just two points behind manufacturer stablemates Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita at Team LeMans.[25] But the No. 37 TOM's crew were able to win the teams' championship by one point over Team LeMans,[26] after another strong season for Hirakawa and Cassidy that saw them win the final round at Motegi, and record another four podium finishes. That same year, Hirakawa appeared at the 2019 DTM season finale at the Hockenheimring, finishing 13th in the weekend's first race. He finished eighth during the second Super GT x DTM Dream Race at Fuji Speedway on 24 November.[27]

2020–21

Hirakawa missed out on the 2020 title after running out of fuel on the final corner of the final lap of the final race of the season.

The start of the 2020 Super GT season was delayed until July due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hirakawa and Cassidy won the opening round at Fuji Speedway from pole position, giving the new Toyota GR Supra GT500 a win in its debut race.[28] After retiring from the sixth round at Suzuka due to a pit entry collision, Cassidy left the series in order to focus on his new role as a driver for Envision Virgin Racing in Formula E. Hirakawa and his new co-driver Kenta Yamashita won pole for the final round at Fuji Speedway. They led the majority of the race, with Hirakawa in position to win the championship, but increasingly faced pressure from Naoki Yamamoto in the latter stages of the race. Hirakawa ran out of fuel on the final corner of the final lap, allowing Yamamoto to overtake him to win the race and the championship alongside new Team Kunimitsu co-driver Tadasuke Makino.[29] Hirakawa coasted to a second place finish, and again missed out on a second championship by just two points.[30]

Hirakawa was meant to drive the 2021 season alongside Sacha Fenestraz, but Fenestraz's ongoing visa issues meant that Sena Sakaguchi would drive in his place for the first five rounds. Hirakawa and Sakaguchi finished on the podium in the first two rounds at Okayama and Fuji. Fenestraz returned for the sixth round at Autopolis, and the duo finished second in the final round at Fuji Speedway. Hirakawa finished the year seventh in the drivers' championship.[31]

Prototype career

European Le Mans Series (2016–2017)

On 4 February 2016, Toyota Gazoo Racing announced that Hirakawa would be competing in the LMP2 class of the European Le Mans Series.[32] On 4 March, Hirakawa was confirmed as the third driver at Thiriet by TDS Racing alongside Pierre Thiriet and Mathias Beche. He won his first race in the ELMS at the 2016 4 Hours of Imola on 15 May, then won the following 4 Hours of Red Bull Ring on 17 July. He also competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time in 2016, and was in contention for an LMP2 class podium finish before Thiriet suffered an accident early in the morning on Sunday.[33]

For 2017, Hirakawa joined the number 22 G-Drive Racing entry operated by DragonSpeed, partnering Memo Rojas and Léo Roussel.[34] The trio won the second round, the 4 Hours of Monza, on 14 May, and the G-Drive/DragonSpeed team won the LMP2 Teams' championship that season.

FIA World Endurance Championship (2022–present)

On 7 December 2021, Hirakawa was announced as a driver of the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid in the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship. He replaced Kazuki Nakajima, who took on a managerial role at Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe after retiring from driving.[35] He scored his first career podium at the 1000 Miles of Sebring.

Racing record

Career summary

Season Series Team Races Wins Poles FLaps Podiums Points Position
2010 Formula Challenge Japan 11 0 0 1 2 17 6th
Formula BMW Pacific Asia Racing Team 3 0 0 0 0 0 NC†
2011 Formula Challenge Japan 13 1 1 0 10 73 2nd
2012 Japanese Formula 3 Championship RSS 15 7 7 5 13 118 1st
Formula Challenge Japan 12 5 4 4 10 91 2nd
Macau Grand Prix KCMG by RSS 1 0 0 0 0 N/A NC
Porsche Carrera Cup Japan GARMIN Porsche 12 7 6 ? 9 ? 1st
2013 Super Formula Kygnus Sunoco Team LeMans 7 0 0 2 0 9 11th
2014 Super Formula Kygnus Sunoco Team LeMans 9 0 0 0 1 16.5 8th
Super GT - GT500 Lexus Team Petronas TOM'S 2 0 0 0 0 8 11th
2015 Super Formula Kygnus Sunoco Team LeMans 8 0 0 0 0 13 8th
Super GT - GT500 Lexus Team KeePer TOM'S 8 2 2 0 2 56 5th
2016 European Le Mans Series - LMP2 Thiriet by TDS Racing 5 2 1 0 3 70 5th
Super GT - GT500 Lexus Team KeePer TOM's 2 0 1 0 2 27 9th
2017 European Le Mans Series - LMP2 G-Drive Racing 4 2 0 0 3 73 4th
Super GT - GT500 Lexus Team KeePer TOM'S 8 2 1 0 4 84 1st
2018 Super GT - GT500 Lexus Team KeePer TOM'S 8 1 0 0 4 75 2nd
Super Formula Itochu Enex Team Impul 6 0 1 0 2 17 5th
2019 Super GT - GT500 Lexus Team KeePer TOM'S 8 1 0 0 4 83 2nd
Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters 1 0 0 0 0 0 NC†
Super Formula Itochu Enex Team Impul 7 1 1 0 1 12 10th
Super Taikyu - ST-3 Le Beausset Motorsports 2 0 0 0 1 92‡ 4th‡
2020 Super GT - GT500 TGR Team KeePer TOM'S 8 1 2 2 2 67 2nd
Super Formula Itochu Enex Team Impul 7 1 2 0 2 60 2nd
2021 Super GT - GT500 TGR Team KeePer TOM'S 8 0 1 1 3 46 7th
Super Formula Carenex Team Impul 6 0 0 0 2 46 4th
2022 FIA World Endurance Championship - Hypercar Toyota Gazoo Racing 4 1 1 0 3 96 2nd*
Super Formula Carenex Team Impul 6 2 0 1 3 64 2nd*

† – As Hirakawa was a guest driver, he was ineligible for points.

‡ Team standings.
* Season still in progress.

Complete Super Formula results

(Races in bold indicate pole position)(Races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 DC Points
2013 Kygnus Sunoco Team LeMans SUZ
8
AUT
7
FUJ
11
MOT
7
SUG
Ret
SUZ
6
SUZ
4
11th 9
2014 Kygnus Sunoco Team LeMans SUZ
4
FUJ1
Ret
FUJ2
8
FUJ
2
MOT
10
AUT
13
SUG
8
SUZ
16
SUZ
5
8th 16.5
2015 Kygnus Sunoco Team LeMans SUZ
12
OKA
9
FUJ
6
MOT
7
AUT
4
SUG
8
SUZ
10
SUZ
5
8th 13
2018 Itochu Enex Team Impul SUZ
Ret
AUT
C
SUG
9
FUJ
4
MOT
2
OKA
3
SUZ
Ret
5th 17
2019 Itochu Enex Team Impul SUZ
Ret
AUT
14
SUG
11
FUJ
12
MOT
1
OKA
12
SUZ
8
10th 12
2020 Itochu Enex Team Impul MOT
1
OKA
4
SUG
2
AUT
12
SUZ
Ret
SUZ
7
FUJ
6
2nd 60
2021 Carenex Team Impul FUJ
4
SUZ
2
AUT
Ret
SUG MOT
4
MOT
Ret
SUZ
2
4th 46
2022 Carenex Team Impul FUJ
1
FUJ
2
SUZ
7
AUT
1
SUG
7
FUJ
Ret
MOT
MOT
SUZ
SUZ
2nd* 64*

* Season still in progress.

Complete Super GT results

Year Team Car Class 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 DC Points
2014 Lexus Team Petronas TOM'S Lexus RC F GT500 OKA FUJ
9
AUT
5
SUG FUJ SUZ BUR MOT 20th 8
2015 Lexus Team KeePer TOM'S Lexus RC F GT500 OKA
1
FUJ
6
BUR
6
FUJ
12
SUZ
8
SUG
9
AUT
12
MOT
1
5th 56
2016 Lexus Team KeePer TOM'S Lexus RC F GT500 OKA
2
FUJ
3
SUG
8
FUJ
12
SUZ
Ret
CHA
9
MOT
Ret
MOT
5
9th 38
2017 Lexus Team KeePer TOM'S Lexus LC 500 GT500 OKA
1
FUJ
3
AUT
6
SUG
10
FUJ
6
SUZ
6
CHA
1
MOT
2
1st 84
2018 Lexus Team KeePer TOM'S Lexus LC 500 GT500 OKA
3
FUJ
7
SUZ
3
CHA
8
FUJ
2
SUG
14
AUT
1
MOT
4
2nd 75
2019 Lexus Team KeePer TOM'S Lexus LC 500 GT500 OKA
12
FUJ
7
SUZ
2
CHA
2
FUJ
4
AUT
3
SUG
4
MOT
1
2nd 83
2020 TGR Team KeePer TOM'S Toyota GR Supra GT500 FUJ
1
FUJ
4
SUZ
7
MOT
6
FUJ
4
SUZ
Ret
MOT
6
FUJ
2
2nd 67
2021 TGR Team KeePer TOM'S Toyota GR Supra GT500 OKA
3
FUJ
3
SUZ
7
MOT
10
SUG
11
AUT
9
MOT
10
FUJ
2
7th 46

Complete European Le Mans Series results

Year Entrant Class Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 Rank Points
2016 Thiriet by TDS Racing LMP2 Oreca 05 Nissan VK45DE 4.5 L V8 SIL
Ret
IMO
1
RBR
1
LEC SPA
3
EST
8
5th 70
2017 G-Drive Racing LMP2 Oreca 07 Gibson GK428 4.2 L V8 SIL
2
MNZ
1
RBR LEC SPA
2
ALG
4
4th 73

24 Hours of Le Mans results

Year Team Co-Drivers Car Class Laps Pos. Class
Pos.
2016 France Thiriet by TDS Racing Switzerland Mathias Beche
France Pierre Thiriet
Oreca 05-Nissan LMP2 241 DNF DNF
2017 Russia G-Drive Racing Mexico Memo Rojas
Mexico José Gutiérrez
Oreca 07-Gibson LMP2 327 39th 17th
2022 Japan Toyota Gazoo Racing Switzerland Sébastien Buemi
New Zealand Brendon Hartley
Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercar 380 1st 1st

Complete Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters results

Year Team Car 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Pos Points
2019 Lexus Team KeePer Tom's Lexus LC 500 GT500 HOC
1
HOC
2
ZOL
1
ZOL
2
MIS
1
MIS
2
NOR
1
NOR
2
ASS
1
ASS
2
BRH
1
BRH
2
LAU
1
LAU
2
NÜR
1
NÜR
2
HOC
1

NC
HOC
2
NC† 0†

As Hirakawa was a guest driver, he was ineligible to score championship points.

Complete FIA World Endurance Championship results

Year Entrant Class Car Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Rank Points
2016 Thiriet by TDS Racing LMP2 Oreca 05 Nissan VK45DE 4.5 L V8 SIL SPA LMS
Ret
NÜR MEX COA FUJ SHA BHR NC 0
2017 G-Drive Racing LMP2 Oreca 07 Gibson GK428 4.2 L V8 SIL SPA LMS
17
NÜR MEX COA FUJ SHA BHR 34th 4
2022 Toyota Gazoo Racing Hypercar Toyota GR010 Hybrid Toyota 3.5 L Turbo V6 (Hybrid) SEB
2
SPA
Ret
LMS
1
MNZ
2
FUJ
BHR
2nd* 96*

* Season still in progress.

References

  1. ^ "Profile" (in Japanese). ryo-hirakawa.com. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  2. ^ "Asia-Pacific Championship — KF2 2009". drivedb.com. Driver Database. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  3. ^ "Formula Challenge Japan 2010". Driver Database. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Formula BMW Pacific Provisional Entry List". macau.grandprix.gov.mo. Macau Grand Prix. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  5. ^ "Formula BMW Pacific 2010". DriverDB.com. Driver Database. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  6. ^ "Formula Challenge Japan 2011". DriverDB.com. Driver Database. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Formula Challenge Japan 2012". DriverDB.com. Driver Database. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  8. ^ 開幕ラウンド占有走行 [Travel round the opening possession]. All-Japan Formula Three Championship (in Japanese). Japanese Formula 3 Association. 13 May 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  9. ^ "Japanese Formula 3 Championship – Championship Class 2012". driverdb.com. Driver Database. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  10. ^ "Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix Provisional Entry List". macau.grandprix.gov.mo. Macau Grand Prix. 24 August 2013. Archived from the original on 18 November 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  11. ^ a b "Catching Up With Ryo Hirakawa | dailysportscar.com". www.dailysportscar.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  12. ^ Glendenning, Mark (14 August 2013). "Ryo Hirakawa closes in on Coyne IndyCar drive". Autosport. Haymarket. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  13. ^ "Japanese Championship Super Formula 2014 standings | Driver Database". www.driverdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  14. ^ "Japanese Championship Super Formula 2015 standings | Driver Database". www.driverdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  15. ^ "Super Formula Rd. 2 Race at Autopolis Cancelled | SUPER FORMULA Official Website". superformula.net. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  16. ^ "Super Formula 2018 standings | Driver Database". www.driverdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  17. ^ "Super Formula Rd. 5 Race Report | SUPER FORMULA Official Website". superformula.net. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  18. ^ "Super Formula 2019 standings | Driver Database". www.driverdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  19. ^ "2020 Rd. 1 at Twin Ring Motegi Race | SUPER FORMULA Official Website". superformula.net. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  20. ^ "Super Formula Championship 2020 standings | Driver Database". www.driverdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  21. ^ "Japanese Championship Super Formula 2021 standings | Driver Database". www.driverdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  22. ^ "Fukuzumi Wins Rd. 7 Race | SUPER FORMULA Official Website". superformula.net. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  23. ^ "Lexus Team KeePer TOM's Wins At Okayama | dailysportscar.com". www.dailysportscar.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  24. ^ "Autobacs Super GT Series - GT500 2018 standings | Driver Database". www.driverdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  25. ^ "Autobacs Super GT Japan - GT500 2019 standings | Driver Database". www.driverdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  26. ^ "Results | SUPER GT OFFICIAL WEBSITE". supergt.net. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  27. ^ "Dreams Come True For Karthikeyan On Sunday At Fuji | dailysportscar.com". www.dailysportscar.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  28. ^ "Toyota GR Supras Sweep Super GT Opener On Debut | dailysportscar.com". www.dailysportscar.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  29. ^ "Super GT Wrap-Up, GT500: The Final Battle At Fuji | dailysportscar.com". www.dailysportscar.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  30. ^ "Autobacs Super GT - GT500 2020 standings | Driver Database". www.driverdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  31. ^ "Super GT Japan - GT500 2021 standings | Driver Database". www.driverdb.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  32. ^ "Toyota GAZOO Racing Outlines 2016 Motorsports Activities". Toyota Global Newsroom. Toyota GAZOO Racing. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  33. ^ "24 Hours of Le Mans - Disappointment for Thiriet by TDS Racing". 24h-lemans.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  34. ^ CORPORATION, TOYOTA MOTOR. "Ryo Hirakawa to participate in the European Le Mans Series with G-Drive Racing in the second year of his European Toyota Young Drivers Program(TDP) | PRESS RELEASE | PRESS RELEASE". TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  35. ^ "Nakajima retires from racing, takes on new Toyota WEC role". motorsport.com. Retrieved 7 December 2021.

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by All-Japan Formula Three Championship
Champion

2012
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Hideto Yasuoka
Porsche Carrera Cup Japan
Champion

2012
Succeeded by
Ryo Ogawa
Preceded by Super GT
GT500 Champion

2017
With: Nick Cassidy
Succeeded by
Preceded by Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
2022
With: Sébastien Buemi & Brendon Hartley
Succeeded by
Incumbent