Satoru Nakajima celebrates his 57th birthday today! Father to possible Stefan GP driver Kazuki, Satoru was Japan’s first full-time F1 driver.
Nakajima started racing in karts at the age of 16 and moved to saloon cars, winning the Japanese Touring Car Championship in 1974. He switched to single seaters and won the 1977 Formula Japan title in a Nova Honda – this success was the start of his relationship with the Japanese manufacturer that has continued for over 30 years.
Satoru graduated to Japanese Formula 2 in 1978, and won the title five times between 1981 and 1986.
During the course of 1985, Satoru became involved with Honda’s F1 project, and regularly tested the Williams Honda in Japan to assist with the engine’s development.
With support from the Japanese manufacturer, he was drafted into the second Lotus seat alongside Ayrton Senna for the 1987 F1 season. While summarily out-paced by Senna, he certainly didn’t disgrace himself and scored a total of 7 points in the season, peaking with 4th at the British GP.
The following year was a lean season for Satoru, and he scored just one point. When Honda decided to leave Lotus, it was arranged that he would stay with the team for 1989, now using Judd engines. He peaked with a brilliant fourth place in the rain-soaked Australian GP, setting the fastest race lap.
For 1990-91, he raced with Tyrrell (now using Honda engines) and retired at the end of the second season with the British team.
Nakajima set up his own racing team in Formula Nippon, and the PIAA Nakajima Racing team is one of the most accomplished in the championship.
Also celebrating his 64th birthday today is Alberto Colombo, who unsuccessfully attempted to qualify for three Grands Prix in 1978 with ATS and Merzario.
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