November 27, 1949 – First Japanese winner of 24 Hours of Le Mans is born

Racecar driver Masanori Sekiya achieved his greatest fame behind the wheel as the first Japanese winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Born on this day in 1949, Sekiya first participated in the all day race in 1985. He quickly came to love the event, even marrying in the town before the 1987 competition. While he regularly raced in Formula 3000, Formula Nippon and won first place in the Japanese Touring Car Championship in 1994, he often expressed his desire for a first place win at Le Mans. 

Masanori Sekiya

After a fourth place finish in 1993, Sekiya returned to Le Mans in 1995 driving a McLaren F1 GTR for Kokusai Kaihatsu Racing with co-drivers JJ Lehto of Finland and Yannick Dalmas of France. Just two laps shy of 300, the team won first place overall, giving Sekiya the distinction of being the first Japanese winner of the race.

the 1995 Le Mans winning team, with Masanori Sekiya bottom left.

Cover: The 1995 24 Hours of LeMans winning McLaren F1 GTR, chassis #01R. By youkeys – DSC07893_DxO, CC BY 2.0.