22. The rotary car makes history as Mazda becomes the first Japanese champion
As the race entered the final stage, more and more cars were retiring, crashing or slowing down to conserve fuel. Car 55 had been holding second place since the early morning. It was now just four laps behind the leader and continuing to post faster times than the No. 1 Mercedes. Shortly before one o'clock, the leading Sauber Mercedes pulled into the pit with an overheating engine. An extended pitstop allowed the 55 Mazda to make up the lap difference. At the moment it swept into the top spot, a thunderous roar was let out by the spectators. At 3:45 p.m., the two Mazda 787B cars, 55 and 18, joined up so they could cross the finish line in formation. Fifteen minutes later, Mazda recorded a historical first win for a Japanese car at Le Mans, gloriously concluding a campaign that had begun 17 years before, in 1874.