Rookie Ryo on Living the Dream

“My first season in WEC has been a bit like a dream”

Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Ryo Hirakawa is the new kid on the block for the FIA World Endurance Championship title leaders, but you’d never guess that given the results he’s achieved this year racing in the #8 Toyota GR010 – HYBRID he shares with Brendon Hartley and Sébastien Buemi.

So far, Ryo’s notched-up his first win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as a home victory last time out in the 6 Hours of Fuji. 

Here Ryo answers the questions after that Fuji win…

Fuji has been good to you – what is the secret to success there? 
Fuji is my home circuit and where I grew up as a racing driver, so I know every centimetre of the track. It is an unusual circuit because of the combination of corners, particularly in sector three, and it requires a slightly different style. You cannot drive one corner at a time; you have to think of the next corner and the one after that, to keep a good speed and the right line through each section. It is very easy to lose time by being a bit too aggressive. I have raced many times at Fuji since I started in motorsport, and I have worked with some very experienced drivers, but there is always more to learn.

How would you describe your first season in WEC?
I think my first season in WEC has been a bit like a dream. I am a Le Mans winner and I won a World Championship race at my home track, Fuji Speedway. So there have been many amazing moments and it is not finished yet; we will fight for the World Championship as well. It has not been easy; I have worked very hard and my team-mates have helped me a lot in my first season. We have built up a great relationship and I think we work very well together.

What has surprised you? 
I think the atmosphere in the team, with the other drivers, has been a positive surprise. I know in other championships there is a rivalry between team-mates, but in our team all the drivers work as one team. We spend all our time together, even away from the track, and I have really got to know Mike, Kamui, José, Séb and Brendon. It is like a family and I enjoy that.

What have been the challenges? 
There are many things to get used to in a new team, with a new car. The GR010 HYBRID is quite different from a Super GT or LMP2 car, which I am more familiar with, so I needed a few tests in pre-season to adjust. The biggest difference is the amount of settings we can control from the steering wheel, including for the hybrid system. There are many options to help a driver find the right balance and you need experience to use these in the best way.