Kazuki Nakajima appointed Toyota WEC reserve for 2023 season

The 38-year-old Japanese driver has been brought back into the driving squad to take a role most recently filled by new AlphaTauri Formula 1 driver Nyck de Vries. 

Nakajima will dovetail his reserve duties with the vice-chairmanship of the Cologne-based Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe organisation that runs the two-car WEC squad, the role he was given on hanging up his helmet after the end of the 2021 season.

The move to recall Nakajima was described by TGRE technical director Pascal Vasselon as a “pragmatic and efficient solution”.

He explained that with the limited test schedule planned by Toyota in 2023 there was no chance to give a driver new to the squad sufficient mileage. 

“There was no real time to give to a fully new test and reserve driver,» he said. “Within the very few sessions we have, we need to give mileage to our race drivers as well. 

“Considering that we have Kazuki, who is an extremely good candidate as a real reserve driver, available, we went for this solution, which is the most pragmatic and efficient one.”


Vasselon revealed that Nakajima had impressed on his reacquaintance with the GR010 in the two tests Toyota has undertaken this year with the latest version of its Le Mans Hypercar unveiled on Wednesday.

“It was not a big surprise, but we have seen he came back at exactly the same level as he left,” said Vasselon.

Long-time Toyota driver Nakajima was dropped from Toyota’s WEC squad in favour of compatriot Ryo Hirakawa for 2022, but had hoped to continue in his other racing programme with TOM’S in Super Formula. He subsequently retired from racing when he was given the job at TGRE. 

Previous incumbents of the reserve role at Toyota include Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, who were subsequently promoted to full-season WEC seats. 

They share the #7 GR010 Hybrid with Jose Maria Lopez, while Hirakawa is again teamed with Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley aboard #8 in an unchanged WEC line-up at Toyota for 2023.

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