The 2017/2018 Asian Le Mans Series season is kicking off, and Jackie Chan DC Racing's double podium at the last 24 Hours of Le Mans marked a new milestone in Asia's recent history in Endurance racing. But for the third and final installment, this series could not overlook the impact of Japan, setting a new record at Le Mans this past June.
1990 - Nissan is the first Japanese manufacturer to clinch pole position at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Mark Blundell (3'27''020) at the wheel of the R90CK prototype sporting the racing number...24. This was the same year two chicanes were added to the Mulsanne Straight.
1991 - With the victory for Johnny Herbert, Bertrand Gachot and Volker Weidler, Mazda is still to this day the only Japanese marque to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Back in Japan the significance was palpable, to the point that when the Mazda 787 B took the lead late Sunday morning after the retirement for the Sauber-Mercedes driven by Jean-Louis Schlesser, Jochen Mass and Alain Ferté, television stations in Japan interrupted their regularly scheduled programs to broadcast the race live through the checkered flag.
1992-1995 - Second in 1992 at the wheel of a Toyota TS010 along with British driver Kenny Acheson and Frenchman Pierre-Henri Raphanel, Masanori Sekiya became the first Japanese driver to claim a podium finish at the 24 Hours. In 1995, along with French driver Yannick Dalmas and the Finn J.J. Lehto with the McLaren F1 GTR, he became the first Japanese driver to win at Le Mans. He was joined in 2004 by Seiji Ara, winner at the wheel of an Audi R8 with Danish driver Tom Kristensen and the Italian Dindo Capello.
1999 - Second at the wheel of a Toyota GT-One behind the winning BMW of Yannick Dalmas, Pierluigi Martini and Joachim Winkelhock, Ukyo Katayama, Keiichi Tsuchiya and Toshio Suzuki scored the best overall result by a 100% Japanese driver line-up at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
2014-2017 - Two Japanese citizens, Toyota factory drivers, both made their marks on two editions of the 24 Hours. In 2014, Kazuki Nakajima became the first Japanese pole sitter at Le Mans. In 2017, Kamui Kobayashi set a new pole position record in 3'14"791 at an average of nearly 252 km/h, beating the bar established 32 years earlier by German driver Hans-Joachim Stuck (Porsche).
Click below to read the previous installments in this series:
PHOTO: After Porsche with the 917 and the 962 C, the Toyota TS050 HYBRID is currently the fastest prototype in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a new pole position record set by Kamui Kobayashi this past June.