Former Grand Prix driver Kazuyoshi Hoshino – a man nicknamed ‘the fastest man in Japan’ – is today celebrating his 65th birthday!
After starting out in motocross racing in 1968, Hoshino switched to car racing in 1969 and kicked what has been an almost lifelong association with the Nissan brand.
Hoshino shot to fame in his Grand Prix debut at the rain-hit 1976 Japanese Grand Prix at Mount Fuji. Piloting a Bridgestone-shod privately-entered Tyrrell 007, he qualified 21st-fastest of the 27 entries – two spots better than former F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, no less.
By the end of the opening lap, he was eighth. He gained three further places before the end of the second lap. By Lap 6, he was up to fourth, and up to third place by the end of Lap 10, chasing down early leaders James Hunt and Mario Andretti. Unfortunately, Hoshino didn’t have enough tyres available to complete the race distance, and he was forced to retire on Lap 27.
He returned a year later for the 1977 Grand Prix, this time driving a one-year-old Kojima. He finished eleventh, the same place he’d impressively managed to qualify.
Pre- and post-F1 Hoshino is one of Japan’s most successful drivers in its many domestic championships.
He won the Japanese Formula 2000 championship in 1975 and 1977, before winning the 1978 Japanese Formula 2 crown.
A switch to sports car racing saw him win the 1985 Suzuka 1000 in the World Sports Car Championship, but his win was soured by the race being boycotted by many major rivals on account of the appalling weather.
A return to open-wheel competition saw Hoshino, now in his forties, win the Japanese F3000 championship three times, in 1987, 1990 and 1993. He also won the 1990 Japanese Touring Car Championship, and claim back-to-back titles in the All-Japan Sports Prototype Championship in 1992 and 1992.
Aged 50, he finished in third place at the 1998 Le Mans 24 Hours, driving a Nissan R390 GT1 with Aguri Suzuki and Masahiko Kageyama.
Hoshino finally hung up the helmet after his 55th birthday and switched his focus to running his own Super GT and Formula 3000 teams, along with his Impul retail company, which specialises in Nissan aftermarket products.
His F3000 team as been utterly dominant in recent years, winning six championship titles since 2003.
[Images via ASAG, Flickr, Impul, Modified.com, Taringa, Ultimate car Page, Ultima Volta, Zilvia]