Turning 38 today, Toranosuke Takagi – better known as ‘Tora’ (‘Tiger’, when translated) – was widely considered to be the best Japanese driver of his era to try his hand at Formula 1. But alas…
After a rapid rise through karting and Formula Toyota, Takagi made his Japanese F3 debut at just 18 with the all-conquering TOM’s outfit as a replacement for US-bound Jacques Villeneuve. A year later, he was in Japanese F3000, where he showed rapid pace, albeit with only the occasional win.
At the recommendation of Nakajima, he was signed to Tyrrell for the 1998 F1 season, but it was a difficult debut with an underfunded outfit and the need to learn every circuit he visited. Particularly impressive in qualifying, his race performances were wildly inconsistent.
With his PIAA sponsorship securing him a second season (this time with Arrows), it was more of the same from Tora, who was clearly in need of firmer guidance to iron out some of the kinks.
But for Tora, it proved all too difficult, and he returned to Japan and back to Formula Nippon, before he ventured to the United States for two seasons of CART and then two seasons of IndyCar racing – finishing an impressive tenth overall in his rookie IndyCar season, including a podium at Texas.