Red Bull are poised to take the title sponsorship of the number 37 Lexus Team TOM’s LC500 in 2017, per the cover of the upcoming issue of auto sport Magazine which will release on January 6, 2017.
This new rumour comes just two weeks after TOM’s driver Ryo Hirakawa announced that he would join the global family of Red Bull-sponsored athletes.
Back in August 2016, auto sport first reported the rumours that Red Bull were interested in sponsoring a team in the Autobacs Super GT Series, as part of an attempt to expand their presence in the Japanese sporting landscape.
At the time, the lead was that Red Bull would serve as a title sponsor to a second NISMO Nissan GT-R, but RacingBlog.de’s Geinou has confirmed that talks between the two sides fell through since then.
Red Bull was then linked to a team in the Honda GT500 fleet, potentially Team Mugen or Nakajima Racing – in no small part after reigning GP2 Series champion Pierre Gasly, the top prospect of the Red Bull Junior Team, was linked to a move to Japan for 2017.
Now it seems as if Red Bull will take their sponsorship to Lexus Team TOM’s in 2017, on the 20th anniversary of their first GT500 championship.
On December 16, Ryo Hirakawa announced via Twitter and Instagram that he is now a Red Bull global athlete:
Hirakawa has driven for TOM’s full-time since 2015, driving the #37 KeePer TOM’s Lexus RC-F over the last two seasons – similar to the #37 “Red Bull TOM’s LC500” concept depicted on the cover of the latest auto sport.
The extraordinary 22-year-old driver from Hiroshima will be the first Super GT driver to carry sponsorship from the Austrian soft drinks giant, who also sponsor multiple teams and drivers in Formula 1, WRC, MotoGP, the World Endurance Championship, Australian Supercars, among many other motorsport categories.
Official confirmation, or de-confirmation of this rumour, should be announced sometime in February at Toyota’s global motorsport press conference in Japan, on a date to be determined.
This story will be updated as it develops.