SeijiAra is a Japanese racing driver who became famous out of his country after winning 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004. That result is definitely the biggest achievement in Seiji’s career. Although he has performed in several competitions, never was able to achieve notable success.
Four years without good results behind a wheel of Toyota Supra
Seiji made first steps in racing competing in karts and later moved to Pokal Series, which were very popular in Japan, driving a Volkswagen Golf. After a short period in TOM’S (Tachi Oiwa Motor Sport), he was called by Keiichi Tsuchiya, Japanese ’Drift King’, to join his Super GT team. Driving a Toyota Supra from 2001 to 2003, Seiji Ara twice finished third in the races at Fuji Speedway in 2002 and at Twin Ring Motegi in the following year. Unfortunately, he never managed to be among Top 10 in the overall standings.
Seiji Ara with Dr. Wolfgang Illrich, head of Audi Sport
Seiji Ara wins 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004
In the same time, Ara got a chance to test himself in the world’s the most prestigious race – 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driving Viper Team’s Chrysler LMP, he didn’t finish the race in 2001. In 2002, switching to Audi Sports Japan Team Goh, he did better and finished 7th driving Audi R8. Progress has continued in 2003 as a hint of even better results. Again sharing a seat of Audi R8, this time with Marco Werner and Jan Magnussen, Seiji Ara finished third at Circuit de la Sarthe.
Finally, Ara climbed to the highest step of the podium in 2004. Partnered with Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello, he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans after an interesting battle with another Audi of the UK Sport Team Veloqx.
Seiji Ara celebrates victory in 24 Hours of Le Mans
Ups and downs in Super GT
For the 2005 Super GT campaign, Ara moved to Team Cerumo. Still driving a Toyota Supra, he won his first race at Sportsland SUGO circuit. He finished at 5th position that year what was his best result for a long time. In 2005, his last year in a driving seat of Toyota Supra, Seiji Ara became a pilot of Kraft team, but the whole season was one to forget as he earned points only once.
The same year, Ara failed to finish the race at Le Mans, driving for Jim Gainer International. He had two more appearances at LeMans and both were finished with retirements. In 2009 with Navi Team Goh in Porsche RS Spyder Evo and in 2012 with Pescarolo Team’s Dome-Judd.
Four years with Kondo Racing
In 2006, he again changed team colors in SuperGT. Seiji moved to Kondo Racing with which he spent four years. Driving a Nissan Z in 2007 he scored his second win at Sepang International Circuit and finished 10th in the championship while in 2008 he again was a winner in Malaysia, this time driving a Nissan GT-R. The year of 2008 was his best with Kondo Racing. Ara was 8th in the series and won the race at Okayama. Until the end of 2015, that is his last victory in Super GT Championship.
Video - Seiji Ara crashes Porsche Spyder at 24 Hours of Le Mans 2009
Four Super GT seasons with BMW
Since 2011, Seiji Ara is the driver of Lexus Team Weds Sport Bandoh. Until the end of 2013, driving a Lexus SC430, he had only three podium finishes, every time being at third position – twice at Fuji and once at Autopolis.
In 2014, Seiji moved to BMW Sport Trophy Team Studie to drive the #7 BMW Z4 GT3 in GT300 class, together with Jörg Müller. They scored three podiums to finish 3rd in the Drivers’ championship, what was Seiji's best Super GT result in a career. In the following year dropped to 7th place overall, but noticeable was his second place at Suzuka Circuit.
Ara and Müller were sharing a car for two more years, switching to BMW M6 GT3 in 2016. They were just 15th in the points that year. Seiji's last Super GT season with BMW was 2017, when he finished 15th again.
Seiji Ara as BMW driver
Appearences in various racing series
Seiji Ara also spent a season in GT1 World Championship, driving Swiss Racing Team’s Nissan. Again, his performances weren’t thrilling as he only once from 20 starts finished in Top 10.
With varying success Ara also appeared in the various racing series like Japanese Formula 3, Formula Nippon, ALMS, and the WTCC. Out of racing, Seiji Ara worked as a host of popular Japanese TV show ’Best Motoring’.