Toyota GAZOO Racing outlined their 2016 motorsports activities at the Mega Web in Odaiba, Tokyo on February 4, in which they announced the names of the four drivers who will be participating in the Toyota Young Drivers Program.
Toyota started this project with the aim to cultivate young drivers to compete in top racing events around the world. Toyota Young Drivers Program graduates like Kazuki Nakajima, Kamui Kobayashi, Hiroaki Ishiura, Kohei Hirate, Kazuya Oshima, and Yuji Kunimoto have been competing in the top domestic and international racing events.
This year, Toyota will give support to these four drivers: Ryo Hirakawa, Yuichi Nakayama, Kenta Yamashita, and Sho Tsuboi.
Hirakawa, who competed in the Super GT and the Super Formula in 2015, will compete in the European Le Mans Series for the first time. He will not be able to compete in the Super Formula because of the race schedule, but he will be participating in the Super GT under the Lexus Team TOM’s. He participated in the testing of the Toyota TS040 Hybrid in January; hence, he was in Europe for the testing on the day of the announcement. He is expected to fully compete in international races in the future.
Nakayama will continue to compete in the Super GT (GT300) and the Super Formula. He will be driving the all-new Prius GT, so he is expected to have more racing activities this year compared to last year.
Meanwhile, Kenta Yamashita and Sho Tsuboi will be competing in the Japanese Formula Three Championship. Finishing second overall in last year’s series, Yamashita might be working hard to win the series title this year. Sho Tsuboi won the FIA F4 Japanese Championship. He is aiming to step up further this year.
(Translated by Katherine N. Bantiles)