Former Grand Prix driver and F1 team principal Aguri Suzuki turns 51 today!
Ranked with Takuma Sato as one of Japan’s most successful Grand Prix drivers, Suzuki became his country’s first podium finisher, doing the honours on home soil at the 1990 race at Suzuka.
With his father founding the national karting association, it was almost natural that he became involved in motorsport, and he would go on to win the Japanese crown in 1981 before jumping straight into Formula 3, winning the national title in 1983.
Next up were offers to race in sports and touring cars, and Aguri won the Group A crown in 1986, before he switched back to open-wheeled competition and moved to the All-Japan Formula 3000 championship in 1987. He finished runner-up that year and did one better the following year.
He made his first F1 outing in 1988 with the Larrousse outfit at Suzuka before joining Zakspeed in 1989, which was powered by Yamaha engines. But it was a terrible year that almost threatened to derail his entire motorsport career: the hapless Suzuki DNPQed at every one of the season’s sixteen races (a record that still stands).
Luckily, he found a home at Larrousse for the 1990 season, and proved his worth (and talent) with three points’ finishes, including his emotion-charged third place at Suzuka.
The following season was tougher; he finished just one race (admittedly, claiming a point with sixth) and jumped ship to Footwork in 1992. The team was still in a rebuilding phase after its disastrous flirtation with Porsche engines the year before, and Aguri found himself overshadowed by team-mate Michele Alboreto and failed to claim a point.
It was the same result in 1993 – this time paired with Derek Warwick – and he again failed to trouble the scorers despite the car generally proving competitive. Certainly, umpteen spins and crashes didn’t help his cause…
Not surprisingly, he wasn’t kept on for 1994, and aside from a one-off outing with Jordan at the Pacific Grand Prix (replacing the suspended Irvine), his year was spent in Japan racing with the Nissan team.
Pressure from Mugen-Honda saw Suzuki make a swansong appearance with Ligier in 1995, albeit sharing the seat with Martin Brundle, who proved quicker.
Having already decided to retire from competition after his home race, his sojourn ended prematurely when he crashed in practice; his broken ribs rendering him unable to participate.
He continued to be involved in motorsport, setting up a scheme to promote young Japanese talent into Formula 1, and then setting up his own team in the Indy Racing League in 2003. In 2006, he set up his own F1 team, which competed impressively against much better-funded outfits before it collapsed in mid-2008.