Japanese racing legend Kunimitsu Takahashi dies aged 82 – Motorsport. com
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In a career spanning five decades, Takahashi was a pioneer for Japan riders in grand prix motorcycle racing before embarking on a successful career on four wheels that took him in order to victories within single-seaters, sports prototypes and touring cars.
Since his retirement from professional race at the age of 59, Takahashi has remained a fixture on Japan’s motorsport scene via team ownership, with his eponymous Team Kunimitsu outfit having scored two SUPER GT titles in 2018 plus 2020.
Having emerged as a leading talent on Japan’s domestic bike racing picture in the particular late 1950s as a teenager, Takahashi was selected as a Honda works rider for the brand’s assault on the FIM Road Racing World Championship in 1960.
The following year, he became the first Western rider to win a race within any class when he took victory in the particular West German GP in the 250cc course at Hockenheim at the age associated with 21. He would pick up a further three GP wins in the 125cc class, all with Honda machinery.
Photo by: Kunimitsu Takahashi
A life-threatening crash within the Isle of Man TT in 1962 and subsequent loss associated with form convinced Takahashi in order to turn their attention to car racing in 1965. Joining Nissan, he contributed to the success of vehicles like the R380 prototype and Skyline 2000 GT-R touring car during the late 1960s plus early 1970s, when Japan’s national scene was still in its infancy.
Takahashi would also prove the dab hand in single-seaters, first entering the All-Japan Formula 2k series (the predecessor of modern-day Super Formula) within 1975. This individual finished runner-up in 1977 behind Kazuyoshi Hoshino, and at the end of that 12 months he made an one-off Formula 1 outing in the Japanese Grand Prix, finishing ninth in a privateer Tyrrell 007.
Although he would remain competitive within single-seaters well into the 1980s, Takahashi’s biggest career successes would come in sportscars. In 1985-87, this individual took three consecutive titles in the All-Japan Sports Prototype series driving a Nova Engineering-run Porsche 962 and added the fourth crown to his resume within 1989.
By then, Takahashi had established himself like a Le Mans 24 Hours regular, making five consecutive appearances between 1986 plus 1990 in a Kremer Racing Porsche, albeit only managing a best result of 9th in 1988 and just one other classified finish within that span.
Team Kunimitsu was formed in 1992 to tackle the All-Japan Touring Car Championship, and in 1994, the particular team entered the newly-formed All-Japan GRAND TOURING Championship (JGTC), the forerunner to modern-day SUPER GT, with the Porsche 911 RSR. He or she and teammate Keiichi Tsuchiya took the squad’s first win that season at Sugo.
That same yr, Takahashi would return to Le Mans along with Kremer Race fielding a Honda NSX GT2, sharing a cockpit with Tsuchiya and Akira Iida. The trio might return in 1995, this time under the Team Kunimitsu banner, and their triumph in the particular GT2 class was the first-ever for a Japanese entrant fielding a Japanese car plus an all-Japanese driver line-up.
Team Kunimitsu switched in order to fielding Ford machinery JGTC in 1996, starting an association that continues to this day, and would score two more wins before finally bringing down the curtain on his professional racing career at the particular conclusion of the 1999 season.
Takahashi might remain involved in the JGTC (renamed SUPER GRAND TOURING in 2005) not only through running his team but also in his role as typically the chairman of championship promoter GTA, which he held from the organisation’s formation within 1993 until 2007.
Despite semi-regular race wins and some near-misses, championship success would elude Team Kunimitsu until 2018, the year that Formula 1 champion Jenson Button joined this team to partner Naoki Yamamoto. The pair prevailed in a tense showdown with the TOM’S Lexus group to give Honda a first SUPER GT title since 2010.
Yamamoto would certainly lead Kunimitsu to the second name in three years inside 2020, this time with Tadasuke Makino as his teammate following Button’s departure at the end of 2019.
That 12 months, Takahashi was also honoured by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, Sports, plus Technology for his achievements for his outstanding contribution to often the promotion associated with sports throughout Japan.
During a special prize-giving ceremony held around Tokyo in order to mark your occasion, he said: “It was more than 60 years ago that I became interested in motorcycles in addition to motorsport, when I was 18 years old. At that time, there was no bullet train or Tomei [the main freeway linking Tokyo and Nagoya], but I was lucky enough to meet [Honda founder] Soichiro Honda and I was able to be able to participate in the exact world championship.
“In motorsport, whether it is two-wheeled or four-wheeled, results cannot be achieved without the combined efforts of many people. It is thanks to all regarding you which i have been able to spend more than 60 many years of my life involved in racing. I am honoured beyond words. ”
Photo by: Motorsport. com / Japan