Former Grand Prix driver Ukyo Katayama is turning 48 today!
This diminutive Japanese driver had several seasons in the Japanese and European formulae under his belt before he moved up into Formula 1 in 1992 with the Venturi Larrousse team.
Utterly committed, he was unlucky not to score his first points that year in Canada, but ongoing concerns about his stamina seemed to count against him. With the backing of his sponsor Cabin, he moved to Tyrrell in 1993, but it was a dreadful season lumbered with the poor 020C and 021 chassis’. He saw himself involved in a series of spins and crashes as he overdrove, no doubt trying to compensate for the shortcomings of the car.
Backing from Yamaha, Cabin and Mild Seven saw Ukyo retained for the 1994 season, and he truly blossomed, scoring points on three occasions. Reliability deprived him of plenty more points’ finishes, and he lost out on a certain podium at Hockenheim when his throttle stuck open.
But this was to be his one season of brilliance, for the next three years in the sport delivered no more points, and he was consigned to making up the numbers once again. He joined Minardi for a swansong year in 1997 before retiring to pursue his other passion: mountaineering.
It emerged that Katayama had been diagnosed with a non-malignant cancer in his back in 1994, and he delayed treatment until he retired from F1.
Fully recovered, he turned to sports car racing. He came close to winning the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours for Toyota, when in the final hour, he suffered a puncture and lost the lead to the eventual winners, BMW. Ukyo also returned to the F1 paddock to compete in the Speedcar Series alongside other retired F1 contemporaries.
Click here for Ukyo Katayama’s complete F1 results.
[Images via The Cahier Archive]
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