Amazing how frequently Le Mans looms large in the McLaren corporate consciousness. In 1966 Bruce McLaren shared the winning Ford GT at the Sarthe with Chris Amon, then 29 years later a car carrying the McLaren name would emerge victorious in the French 24-hour classic.
Two of the drivers in 1995 – J.J. Lehto and Yannick Dalmas – were well-known personalities on the European racing stage, both having had F1 experience, but Masanori Sekiya was less well-known in his role as the first Japanese driver in history ever to win the world’s most challenging sports car endurance event. He gained this success at the wheel of the McLaren F1 GTR fielded by Kokusai Kaihatsu Racing.
Sekiya drove single seaters for most of his early career, competing in the Japanese Formula 3000 and Formula Nippon championships from 1987 to 1993. He drove mainly for the Leyton House team, and while he never managed to post a race victory, he finished fourth in the Formula Nippon series in 1988 and 89, achieving three and four podium finishes respectively.
As a member of the Toyota sports car team, Sekiya also drove in the All Japan Sports prototype championship, the all Japan Grand Touring Championship and the Japanese touring car championship which he won in 1994 driving a Toyota Chaser for the TOM’s team. Sekiya competed in the JGTCC until 2000 after which he worked as team manager for the SuperGT division of the TOM’s Toyota team and also ran a racing school at Fuji.