Hiromu Naruse, Master Test Driver

The automotive world was rocked June 23, 2010, as news spread about the death of Hiromu Naruse, Toyota's 67-year-old designer and master test driver.

Naruse was in Germany testing a prototype of Toyota's latest supercar, the Lexus LFA. He died in a crash near the Nürburgring test track. An as yet unnamed passenger also died in the crash. The occupants of the other vehicle – a BMW also being test driven at Nürburgring – are both in critical condition.

A legend in the automotive world, Naruse had worked for Toyota since 1963 and was involved in developing many of their high performance vehicles over the years, including the Toyota 2000GT and the Lexus IS300. He was the head of Toyota's Gazoo Racing and acted as the personal driver of Toyota President Akio Toyoda (seemingly a largely ceremonial position, as Naruse spent most of his time at European race tracks).

The Lexus LFA Naruse was fine-tuning was scheduled to go into production later this year. Only 500 were planned to be made, and one could be yours for a mere $375,000.

"I'm only halfway up the stairs," Naruse told Autoweek.com in a recent interview. "I'm still ready for the next step."