SUZUKA - Lewis Hamilton always dreamed of matching the achievements of his boyhood idol Ayrton Senna, winning as many races and world titles as the late great Brazilian who had inspired him to beat the odds.
Full of hope, despite his under-privileged background, the British youngster would come home from school and put on a video of Senna karting.
The Formula One champion reminisced earlier this month in a BBC column: "I wanted to be like him. I aspired to one day drive the way he drove, and achieve something similar to what he achieved".
"At the time, I felt that if I could get anywhere close to doing anything similar to him, I would be super-proud of myself. That is what I set my sights on all those years ago," he added.
Yesterday, at the same Suzuka circuit where Senna sealed all three of his World Championships and wrote some of the most controversial and colourful pages in F1 history, Hamilton equalled the Brazilian's 41 race wins.
In doing so, the Briton took another huge step towards his own third world title. He now leads his closest challenger, teammate Nico Rosberg, by 48 points with five races left.
Hamilton has 277 points to German Rosberg's 229.
The Briton will surely win many more races in years to come but number 41 will always be special.
"For me to come here to a race where I used to love watching Ayrton drive and to match his wins... yeah, I can't really describe it, it doesn't really feel real at the moment," declared the Mercedes driver.
Yesterday was Hamilton's 162nd race, one more than Senna started in a career that ended tragically at Imola in 1994, and he had already overtaken the Brazilian's tally of 80 podiums and 19 fastest laps.
Senna won twice at Suzuka in 1988 and 1993 and Hamilton's victory was also his second at the circuit - his first Japanese triumph coming at Fuji in 2007.
"It was such an amazing race," he said. "This has been a circuit that I can honestly say that I've struggled (at) through all the years that I've come here but one that I've loved driving.
"It's like sailing. When you go through the corners here, it's flowing. Honestly, I wish I could share the feeling with you.
"Also knowing that this would be the race that I would equal Ayrton, who won here and who had quite an interesting time here... quite an emotional day.
"But to be honest I'm not a teary guy, so I'm just full of joy and happiness and light."