Equipped with a very self-deprecating sense of humour, Noda is rather atypical of many Japanese drivers to have graced Formula 1 on account that much of his racing career was in Europe rather than in his homeland.
Arriving in Europe in 1989 to enter the Vauxhall and GM Lotus series, he won once and took two further podiums en route to jumping into the British F3 championship, where he became the series’ first-ever Japanese race-winner with a fine victory at Silverstone.
Formula 3000 was next, and it bought frustration rather than success, and it was a case of timing and finances – rather than form – which landed him the last three races of the 1994 F1 season with the cash-strapped Larrousse team.
He acquitted himself well in a very poor car, which failed to get him to the chequered flag at each race. He had planned to join Simtek for the second half of the 1995 season, but this came to nothing when the team collapsed mid-year, after it had taken his deposit for the seat.
Instead, Hideki went to the United States and spent two seasons in Indy Lights – he became Japan’s first racewinner in that series with a great drive in the wet at Portland – before returning home to Formula Nippon and the Japanese GT Series.
Hideki is now a regular in the Le Mans Series, and graced Richard’s F1 with an exclusive interview, which you can read here.
[Image via F1 Rejects]