Toyota young driver Ryo Hirakawa will join the French TDS Racing line-up for this year’s European Le Mans Series and the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The 21-year-old has been placed with TDS, which finished a close second in last year’s ELMS, by the Japanese manufacturer in his capacity as a member of its young driver program. Hirakawa will share the ORECA-Nissan 05 with team regulars Pierre Thiriet and Mathias Beche, who will undertake a full season in the six-round ELMS and race at Le Mans with TDS alongside his drive in the World Endurance Championship with Rebellion Racing.
Winner of the All-Japan Formula 3 title in 2012, Hirakawa will dovetail the TDS drive with a third season in Super GT with the TOM’S Lexus squad.
Hirakawa was given a tryout in one of last season’s Toyota TS040 Hybrids earlier this year and is understood to be a strong contender for a role with the factory squad following Kamui Kobayashi’s promotion to the full race team.
TDS team manager Xavier Combet explained that the contact with Toyota came through ORECA, which helps run the marque’s LMP1 WEC program.
“It’s a small planet and that’s how the contact was made,” Combet said. “We are very happy to have Ryo in the car; he’s very young, but if you look at his results, I think he is a good one. I am sure that we can have a good season with these three drivers.”
Hirakawa will get his first taste of the ORECA 05 LMP2 car at Aragon next week when TDS takes part in a Dunlop tire test. He will then drive in the official ELMS test at Paul Ricard later this month ahead of the series opener at Silverstone on the WEC undercard on April 16.