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Anyone chosen to partner Tom Kristensen in the Le Mans 24 Hours during the mid 2000s was virtually certain to add another victory to their résumé. That was the case for Seiji Ara who emerged from a less-than remarkable career in Japan to win the 2004 race.
Early career at home and abroad
Champion in the 1994 Japanese Volkswagen Cup, Ara spent the next two seasons in North America when showing little in the Barber Dodge Pro-Series. He returned to Japan and finished as runner-up in the Formula Four Championship. Formula 3 followed and Ara was sixth overall in 1999 with a TOM’s Dallara F399-Toyota having won once at Suzuka.
He moved to Toda Racing for 2000 and was on the podium on five occasions to take a career-best third in the points behind Sébastien Philippe and Yūji Ide. He also raced in the Japanese Super GT Championship that year – a series that he continues to compete in today. The 2001 Formula Nippon Championship with Team Ceramo’s Reynard 99L-Mugen included third on his debut at Suzuka but that proved to be his best result in two years in the country’s premier single-seater championship. Fourth at Fuji was his best result of the 2002 campaign with Kondo Racing.
Le Mans winner for Team Goh and Audi
His 2001 Le Mans debut with ORECA’s Chrysler LMP2001 ended in the 21st hour in a spectacular engine fire. Ara drove Team Goh’s private Audi R8 on his next three appearances in the race and he grew ever-more successful. Seventh in 2002, he finished fourth a year later when sharing with Marco Werner and Jan Magnussen and won the 2003 Spa 1000Kms with Kristensen.
The Dane was already a five-time winner at Le Mans by then, including the last four in a row. So when Team Goh partnered Ara with Kristensen and Dindo Capello for the 2004 race, he was well placed to win it. Sure enough the Audi Sport Japan-backed car won when just 41.354sec ahead of another private Audi at the finish.
Ara continued in Japanese Super GT and Formula Nippon and scored a breakthrough victory in the latter during 2008 when driving a TOM’s Lola FN06-Toyota.
World Endurance Championship
|2012||Blancpain Endurance Series||26th||4|
|2010||FIA GT1 World Championship||52nd||2|
World Touring Car Championship
0% win rate
|2008||All-Japan Formula Nippon Championship||14th||9|
|2007||All-Japan Formula Nippon Championship||11th||11|
|2005||Le Mans Endurance Series||24th||5|
|2004||Le Mans Endurance Series||5th||27|
FIA Sportscar Championship
Audi Sport Japan
|2002||All-Japan Formula Nippon Championship||11th||3|
|2001||All-Japan Formula Nippon Championship||12th||4|
|2000||All-Japan F3 Championship||3rd||30|
|1999||All-Japan F3 Championship||6th||20|