Satoru Nakajima

Every country needs a pioneer in Formula 1 but these men are often forgotten later when new stars emerge. Satoru Nakajima was the first man to show Japanese racers that they could be Formula 1 drivers.

Born in 1953 in Okazaki City, near Nagoya, Naka-san started racing karts when he was 16 and then moved on to rotary-engined Mazda saloon cars, becoming Japanese touring car champion in 1974. He then switched to single-seater racing in Formula Japan, beginning an association with Honda which has lasted ever since. He won the 1977 Formula Japan title in a Nova-Honda and in 1978 moved into the national Formula 2 series. He went on to win the title five times in 1981, '82, '84, '85 and '86.

In the course of 1985 he became involved in the development of the Honda F1 engine, testing a Williams-Honda on a regular basis in Japan to develop the engine. The following year he also raced in the European F2 Championship with Ralt-Honda and with support from Honda he landed the second Lotus drive alongside Ayrton Senna in 1987. In doing so he became the first fulltime Japanese driver in F1 and scored a total of seven points that year.

In 1988 he scored only one point and when Honda left Lotus it was arranged that he would stay on using Judd engines. In 1989 he drove to fourth place in Australia, setting the fastest lap in the race-soaked race. At the end of the year he moved to Tyrrell - again with backing from Honda - and raced for two more years before announcing his retirement at the end of 1991.

In the 1990s he concentrated on building up his own team and PIAA Nakajima Racing is now one of the most successful in Formula Nippon having won championships in 1999 with Tom Coronel, 2000 with Toranosuke Takagi and 2002 with Ralph Firman.