We now know Seiji Ara will be that 3rd driver. From one standpoint it was a very predictable choice, and on the other hand he can be considered the most successful Japanese driver at La Sarthe. He was 4th overall in 2003 (second in class), and then won overall in 2004 at LeMans driving and R8 along with Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen. However since then, Seiji's sports car forays have not been anything to brag about.
In 2009 driving a Porsche RS Spyder for Team Goh (that was a very well funded operation by the way), while the team was pretty much locked in 2nd place in P2 (behind Team Essex) Ara crashed into the PlayStation chicane with less than an hour to go.
We're not sure what happened at that time, but it seems as if the suspension might have gave way as he hit the brakes for the chicane.
We remember watching that race and actually envisioned the team allowing Sascha Maassen to bring the car home. Sure Seiji was the hometown hero, but Sascha was like an embedded resource Porsche had given the team. He knew the car in an out and would have probably sensed such defect (if there were any) and known how to nurse the package home.
The following year Seiji was one of the drivers for Swiss Racing Team, driving one of its Nissan GT-R entries in the FIA GT1 championship.
The Nissans were not competitive. Well...only the ones entered by Swiss Racing team, because Sumo Power also had Nissans and they were mixing it up with the mid-pack teams and even managed a couple wins.
While there's very little a competent pilot can do if a team is uncompetitive, or if a car is not properly prepared, we feel that a very good jockey would still show flashes of brilliance an even search for better rewarding opportunities.
Either way, the momentum of success in Ara's career has slowed down and at present there are other race car drivers in Japan who are currently riding a wave of success in their careers. To name a few: Takashi Kogure (GT500 champion in 2010), Juichi Wakisaka (multiple GT500 titles), and perhaps the most successful driver in Japan in the past decade and a half, Satoshi Motoyama, who has won multiple GT500 and Formula Nippon championships.
We're not sure how it came about that Seiji Ara was selected to drive in the Dome, but as far as us, he has become almost like a "cliché" choice. The announcement itself looses its pomp and excitement. We can almost predict approximately during a broadcast when a color commentator will remind us of his 2004 LeMans win.
It's not that we dislike Seiji, but the fanfare that has followed him has not yielded any substance as of late. We hope to be wrong this time around.