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New Toyota Management Roles for Kobayashi, Nakajima

Kobayashi named Toyota WEC team principal; Nakajima in new vice-chairman role…

Photos: Toyota

Two of Toyota’s 24 Hours of Le Mans winners Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima have been assigned to new management roles with the Japanese manufacturer.

Kobayashi has been named as the team principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing ahead of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship season, in addition to his role driving the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid alongside Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway.

Nakajima will take on the role of vice-chairman at Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe in Cologne, where the WEC program is based.

The triple Le Mans winner and 2018-19 FIA World Endurance champion recently stood down from his driving role to be replaced in the No. 8 lineup by Ryo Hirakawa.

Kobayashi’s appointment as team principal is designed to “bring a driver’s perspective to team leadership”, according to a statement from Toyota which revealed its squad adjustments during a press conference in Japan on Monday.

The 35-year-old replaces Hisatake Murata, who had served as team president since the middle of 2017.

Kobayashi and Nakajima will work together in their new roles as Toyota gears up for increased competition from other LMH and LMDh manufacturers in the WEC’s top class.

“Thank you to President Akio Toyoda, GR President Sato and Toyota Gazoo Racing for putting their trust in me,” said Kobayashi, who is also racing in Super Formula next year.

“I will give everything to succeed in my new role, which is a big challenge and a great opportunity.

“I look forward to fighting for the world championship as a driver and team principal. I will bring all my experience as a race driver to my new job, and I know I have a fantastic team who will support me in my mission.

“We are preparing for a new era of Hypercar competition in WEC, when many new manufacturers will join the fight, and Toyota Gazoo Racing is evolving to prepare ourselves for this new challenge.

“This new team structure is an important step for us to stay sharp and be ready for the next battle.

“I am pleased that Kazuki can stay within our team and I am sure his driver’s perspective will strengthen the management team at TGR-E. I look forward to working alongside him to make ever-better cars.

“With Ryo, we welcome the next generation of endurance driver and, with the support of the team and his fellow drivers, I know he will be a big success in WEC.”

Nakajima’s new position as TGR-E vice-chairman will involve driver and team management responsibilities.

According to Toyota, the 36-year-old will seek to “enhance the organization and optimize its driver-focused approach to WEC” starting next season.

“I am delighted [to] continue my journey with Toyota Gazoo Racing alongside my colleagues in the WEC team, which feels like a family to me,” said Nakajima.

“It is a big responsibility and I am very grateful to President Akio Toyoda, GR President Sato and Toyota Gazoo Racing for creating this position.

“I need to adapt to my new role within TGR-E but I already have a great relationship with many colleagues in Cologne, and I am looking forward to getting started.

“WEC is one of many exciting projects in which TGR-E is involved, all with the target of making ever-better cars.

“I will give all my strength to contribute to these projects, and strengthen TGR-E and the WEC project. After being a racing driver for nearly 20 years, I have experienced a lot in motorsport and it is exciting to bring this knowledge to my new task.”

Toyota has also confirmed that Yuichiro Haruna has been appointed to the role of WEC project director, in addition to a similar role with the company’s World Rally Team.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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