These are the most iconic and sonorous Japanese cars in motorsport


Where blisteringly-fast race cars are concerned, in my opinion, none can do it better than those in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Whether its the 24 Hour of Le Mans endurance race or the All-Japan Racing Championship, Japanese manufacturers always has strong representatives.

Rewinding the clock

In all sporting codes, including motorsport, success is measured on the basis of winning races and championships. With that said, Japan had arguably its greatest period of sustained success during the '90s.

WATCH | The Mazda 787b is where it all started for Japan in Le Mans and will be known as a legend forever

Technologies and the way cars are put together these days are totally different in addition to a host of new rules and regulations laid down by the FIA and associated racing bodies. 

Which is your most iconic motorsport racecar? Email us here.

Take a trip down motorsport memory lane with some of the most iconic race cars ever to come out of Japan, and will forever remain in racing folklore:

1. Mazda 787b

Mazda made the world sit up and take note when its 787B drove to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1991 - becoming the first Japanese manufacturer to win the prestigious race at the time.

The 787B was powered by a 2.6-litre, quad Wankel rotary engine that made a mouth-watering 520kW and 607Nm with all this power transferred to a body that weighed a mere 850kg. Made even more popular by its orange and green livery, it has also been featured in numerous video games like the Gran Turismo series.

2. Castrol TOM's Toyota Supra

Toyota was lagging behind the rest in the '90s as Nissan was destroying all competition in its way with their fleet of powerful Skyline GTR's in the All-Japan racing series. Toyota didn't really have an answer but that all changed with the fourth-generation Supra.

It first made its debut in the 1995 All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championship, sporting the now iconic white body paint with green and red livery. While the paint and decals were eye-catching, its what was under the bonnet that makes it the stuff of legends.

Instead of using the more powerful 2JZ the car came with, rules at the time allowed manufacturers to swap engines as long as it was in the model range. The team instead opted for the lighter 2.0-litre turbo 3SGTE engine, and had extensive tuning carried out. It proved to be a masterclass as Toyota nudged Nissan off the perch.

3. Calsonic Nissan Skyline GTR R32

Nissan had been dominating motorsport since the '80s and obliterated all that stood before it. The R32 Skyline GTR chewed up and spat out the BMW E30 M3s and Ford RS500 Cosworths it went up against while canting two wins in the Bathurst  1000 and winning all of its races in the Japanese Touring Car Championship. Their blue and white livery has since become a trademark over the years, first introduced to the public in 1988 with the R31 GTS-R.

Under the bonnet was a souped-up twin turbo RB26DETT engine that made anywhere from 400 to 480kW, depending on the race and tuning setup. Match up all that power with a stripped out car weighing 1260kg and an all-wheel-drive system and you have a brutal track built machine.

4. Toyota TS050 Hybrid

After more than 20 previous failed attempts, Toyota finally made history in 2018 when it clinched a maiden victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Car number 8 driven by Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Fernando Alonso crossed the finish line first while its sister car driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez came in second.

The TS050 Hybrid is made up of carbon fibre composite and powered by a 368kW 2.4-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol engine as well as a hybrid unit that makes the same power. This gives it a cumulative figure of 736kW. Toyota would again clinch victory in the 2019 edition of the world famous endurance race.

5. Honda Mugen MOTUL Civic Si

This little Japanese number bagged the overall class victory at the 1987 Japan Touring Car Championship. Built and developed by Honda's performance arm, Mugen, the EF Civic was a wolf in sheep's clothing.

It's naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine made 164kW, weighed just 890kg, revved  to 9500rpm, and utterly blew away the much-faster competition. Honda's reputation for building strong, powerful and small displacement engines was cemented.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest Wheels news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

Disclaimer: Wheels24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of contributors/columnists published on Wheels24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24 or Wheels24.
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24