Ukyo Katayama

Force of character is not unusual in Formula 1 stars but Ukyo Katayama is one of the toughest and most eccentric drivers of recent years. Starting out as a racing mechanic at Tsukuba in 1982, Katayama started racing Japanese FJ1600 the following year and won the title in 1984. He moved up to Japanese Formula 3 with Nissan Hasemi Motorsports in 1985 and finished sixth in the national series and then in August, in gloriously eccentric fashion, he headed for Paris, believing it to be in England, which he knew was the centre of the motor racing world. He spoke a few words of English and no French at all but somehow he ended up at the Winfield School at Paul Ricard where instructor Simon de la Tour overcame the language problems and refined the raw talent considerably.

After half a season of under funded Formula Renault in 1986 Katayama's career came to an abrupt end when he crashed over the barriers at Clermont-Ferrand, breaking his neck and both legs. As soon as he could he walked out of the hospital and began planning a racing comeback, deciding to drive the little-known (but free) Duquesne Formula 3 car. He finished ninth at Pau. He decided at the end of the year to go back to Japan and landed a deal to race for the BA-TSU Racing team in Japanese Formula 3000 although he maintained his links with Europe racing for Courage at Le Mans. He was fortunate to emerge unscathed when he crashed over the barriers and into the trees.

In 1989 he had a busy year, competing in the Japanese Touring Car Championship and racing the difficult Mooncraft chassis in Footwork colours in Japan and Europe but this was enough to earn him a drive with Cabin Racing in 1990. He won the title the following year

He started in F1 when he joined the Larrousse F1 team in 1992. In 1993 he moved to Tyrrell and for three years was a regular F1 driver, scoring a series of points in 1994 but struggled afterwards. He also began a relationship with Toyota as a sportscar driver and when he left F1 at the end of 1997 he raced for Toyota in the Japanese GT series and at Le Mans, where he finished second in 1999.

While continuing to race in the GT series he turned his attention to mountain-climbing, his aim being to climb Mount Everest without oxygen. In 2002 he made it to the southern summit. That year he also embarked on a new career, his aim being to win the Paris-Dakar Rally for Toyota at the wheel of a production-based, diesel-engined Toyota Land Cruiser 4x4. A character.