Victory at Le Mans 20th Anniversary - Never Stop Challenging - Mazda's Enduring Spirit

Report&Interviews

  • Le Mans Report
  • Challenging Spirit
  • Through the Generations

Returning to Le Mans After 20 Years Nobuhiro Yamamoto, Mazda's sports car development program manager, reports on Mazda's latest trip to Le Mans. [3/3]

Johnny Herbert up onto the podium

Johnny Herbert up onto the podium

Reigniting the passion and joy, 20 years later

Johnny completes his run and returns to the pit lane. Expectant members of the press and the public are jammed together in front of the control tower. When he finished the race 20 years ago, Johnny was so dehydrated he had to be carried away on a stretcher. This time, as he climbs out of the 787B, he falls against the car in a comic re-enactment of his faint, causing the crowd to erupt with laughter.

Then there is a surprise. The organizer, ACO, invites Johnny up onto the podium. Due to his dehydration, he missed our podium celebrations twenty years ago. But now, standing on the top step, Johnny finally has the chance to raise both hands toward the sky in a victory salute.

The eyes of everyone in the crowd are glued to Johnny. I feel a lump rising in my throat and I am unable to hold back the tears. Then the team comes together in a huddle and we share the joy with each other.

Thanks to Johnny Herbert, the 787B has completed its 20th anniversary Le Mans victory run without incident, and I am filled with emotion and a deep sense of gratitude.

Now I dream of the day when Mazda will return once more to Le Mans.
I feel a strong connection with Mazda fans around the world who share the same dream.

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Mazda MX-5 Program manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto
Mazda MX-5 Program manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto

Yamamoto-san joined Mazda in 1973 and began his career in rotary engine development and motor sports. He moved to program management and worked on the vehicle development programs for the RX-7, Millenia, second-generation MX-5/Roadster, and the Tribute. In 2002, he became Deputy Program Manager for development of the third-generation MX-5/Roadster. He was appointed Program Manager for sports cars in 2007.