OCTOBER 14, 1996
Katayama for Indycars?
UKYO KATAYAMA's Formula 1 career seems to be coming to a close with Japan Tobacco (JT) - owner of the Mild Seven cigarette brand - apparently looking to change its driver strategy next year and drop Katayama in favor of one of a new generation of Japanese racers.
Katayama is understood to be close to signing a deal to drive for Toyota in Indycar racing as without Mild Seven money he has virtually no chance of an F1 drive.
We hear that Mild Seven is now planning to put its money behind Toranosuke Takagi. He has been linked to Tyrrell in the past but Flavio Briatore - now the controlling shareholder in Minardi - is trying to get JT to put its money into the Italian team and turn it into a Benetton Junior team, both being run in Mild Seven colors with youngsters Giancarlo Fisichella and Takagi as drivers. This is not a bad idea for Mild Seven.
There is no love lost between Briatore and Tyrrell, indeed a couple of years ago the relationship became so heated at one FOCA meeting that Flavio told Ken that one day he would make sure that Ken got no money at all from Japan Tobacco.