Hiromu Naruse was an esteemed test driver for the Toyota team for 47 years, from 1963-2010. For the past several years, he was the chief test driver of the amazing Lexus LFA supercar, and tragically, it was in an LFA that Naruse sadly lost is life on June 23rd, 2010.
The fatal crash occurred on a test track near Germany’s famous racing venue known as the Nurburgring, where Naruse is reported to have left his lane and hit a BMW production car frontally. Naruse was 66 years old, and a valued and integral part of team Toyota. Naruse died doing what he loved, in the company’s first-ever attempt at a supercar, and not many can make that claim.
In fact, he was so revered that the company is now working on a hot hatch model to honor him, the model that Naruse had been lobbying for prior to his death, his favorite project.
Naruse’s vision, which encountered plenty of opposition, was for the hot hatch to be affordable for young auto enthusiasts to own, and also that it be rear-wheel drive and high performance.
The new model will be based on the GRMN Hot Hatch concept and offer the performance experience, though with a smaller price tag than the Toyota FT-86. If it hits the market, the new hot hatch will likely start around $25,000.
I think it is very touching that Toyota is moving forward with plans for the hatchback, and having met Naruse personally and spent time with him during the North American Introduction for the Lexus LFA, I can certainly understand their passion for him. Hiromu Naruse projected a quiet respect, yet a warm and almost exuberant expression.
I first met Naruse and the heads of Lexus Toyota at the Mondrian Hotel South Beach the evening prior to the Lexus LFA Introduction, where the company hosted a dinner at ‘Asia de Cuba’, the luxury hotel’s restaurant. I was fortunate to be seated across from Naruse and his translator.
Throughout dinner Naruse engaged me, teaching me a few Japanese phrases, which came in handy on the track the next day. The words for “awesome” and “mediocre” I can still pronounce, but I dare not attempt to spell. His passion for the LFA supercar and the company were evident, as he showcased the luxury car’s high points to me.
After dinner, Naruse pointed out which desserts he found to be the best, rating them in order enthusiastically. His playful yet serious demeanor was infectious, and after the day on the Homestead Track, Naruse treated me to a special lap in the LFA, including the sharp turns of the embankments, which were supposed to be closed off to press members. It was an honor and a privilege to experience the power of the Lexus LFA with one of the best drivers in the world.
“Domo Arigato”, Hiromu Naruse, for the LFA experience that only you could provide.
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