Hirakawa is looking like a serious contender for a full-time WEC seat with Toyota in 2022 after being handed his first chance to drive the Japanese marque’s GR010 Hybrid in a test at Portimao in June.
He will make a second outing later this month at Barcelona in what appears to be a further evaluation of his potential for a race drive.
While it’s currently unclear what such a move would mean for his involvement in Japan’s domestic Super Formula and SUPER GT series, continuing uncertainties surrounding intercontinental travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic could compel Hirakawa to focus solely on WEC.
Hoshino has had Hirakawa as part of his Impul Super Formula line-up since 2018, only narrowly missing out on last year’s title, but said he would rather see the 27-year-old flourish on the world stage than stay in Japan.
“I would like it if he could stay at the team forever, but for Hirakawa’s sake, I have the feeling of, ‘don’t worry about me, just step up’,” said Hoshino in an interview with Motorsport.com’s Japanese edition. “Toyota has created this window of opportunity, and such chances are rare.
“I told him, ‘Don’t stray from this path you’re following and give it everything you’ve got.’ I won’t stop Hirakawa from stepping up. I think Toyota is now in a position to win at Le Mans, so it’s a great chance.
“I want him to do his best and make it to the top, and I’ll be happy if those that come to Team Impul move on to better things one after another.”
Hoshino himself is no stranger to global endurance racing, having made nine starts in the Le Mans 24 Hours between 1986 and 1998, scoring an overall podium finish in his final appearance driving a Nissan R390 GT1 (pictured below) on top of his countless successes in Japan.
#32 Nissan Motorsports Nissan R390 GT1: Aguri Suzuki, Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Masahiko Kageyama
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Hirakawa meanwhile acknowledged the importance of the Barcelona test in an interview with Motorsport.com’s Japanese edition, while also underlining his desire to race internationally.
“I haven’t been told the details yet, but probably there will be some kind of audition for the future,” Hirakawa said. “Showing my performance will be the most important thing.
“It will be difficult, so I want to drive without going over the limit. If you make a big mistake, you may lose confidence, so I’ll take it step-by-step. It’s my first time on this track as well, so I want to try and get a firm grip on it, but I’m looking forward to seeing how well I can adapt.
“I was a little behind in terms of pace [in Portimao], so I was told that was a point to improve. But on the other hand, I was quick in the wet, so they gave me a good evaluation in that area. I hope I can run at the same pace as the regular drivers in the dry over a long run.”