Honda has commemorated the life of Kunimitsu Takahashi, who passed away age 82 on March 16, 2022, leaving a considerably legacy in motorcycling and racing.
Takahashi joined Honda in 1960 as a factory rider, debuting in the world motorcycle grand prix that year. In the following year, he won his first race at the West Germany Grand Prix, not only giving Honda its first world grand prix victory in the 250cc class, but becoming the first Japanese to win a grand prix in either the two or four wheel categories.
Takahashi then concentrated on four wheel racing in various Japan national categories, and in 1977, raced in the Formula 1 Japan Grand Prix as a wildcard, finishing ninth.
In 1995, Takahashi won the Le Mans 24 hours GT2 class driving a first generation NSX-based car with teammates Keisuke Tsuchiya and Akira Iida. He continued his racing career at the top class until 1999.
Since 2020, he concentrated his efforts on managing Team Kunimitsu, competing in the Japanese GT category with NSX-GTs and HSV-010 GTs. In 2018 and 2020, his led his team to victory in the SUPER GT series GT500 class.
Honda expressed their gratitude, and deeply sorrow for the passing of a motor sports legend who has brought the company much triumph and glory.
Toshihiro Mibe – Honda President, CEO and Representative Director
“I am deeply sorrowful on the passing of Kunimitsu Takahashi. He played a major role as a rider on the world championship stage at the dawn of Honda’s motor sports activities, and his four wheel endeavors, he competed with Honda racing cars for over a quarter of a century, bringing many victories to the company. Takahashi’s influence went way beyond Honda, touching the hearts of everyone involved in motor sports. I am truly grateful for his countless achievements.”
Kunimitsu Takahashi’s career and achievements
1940 – Born in Koganei, Tokyo.
1958 – Debuts in All Japan Motorcycle Clubman Race. Wins the All Japan Motorcycle Endurance Race (Mount Asama Volcano Race) 350cc class.
1959 – Wins Mount Asama Volcano Race for second consecutive year (500cc class)
1960 – Joins Honda R&D Honda Speed Club (HSC)
1961 – Becomes first Japanese to win in World Grand Prix racing (Round 1, West Germany Grand Prix 250cc class)
Wins Round 9, Ulster Grand Prix (125cc class)
Finishes fourth in the Isle of Man TT (250cc class)
Ranked overall fourth (250cc) / fifth (125cc) in the 1961 World Grand Prix series
1962 – Wins World Grand Prix rounds 1 (Spain) and 2 (France) (125cc class)
Crashes during Round 3, the Isle of Man TT, and recovers despite losing consciousness.
Ranked overall fourth (125cc) in the 1962 World Grand Prix series
1963 – Competes in 14 rounds of the World Grand Prix season. Ranked overall ninth (250cc) and seventh (125cc)
1965 – Moves on to four wheel racing
1970 – Wins all five All Japan Drivers Championship T-II class rounds, taking the championship
1971 – Wins the Japanese Grand Prix T-b class
1977 – Finishes ninth in the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix
1985 – 87 – Wins the All Japan Endurance Championship
1989 – Wins the All Japan Sports Prototype Car Championship
1992 – Establishes Team Kunimitsu, acting as manager and driver
1995 – Wins Le Mans 24 hours race (GT2 class)
1996 – Competes in the All Japan GT Championship driving Honda NSX
1998 – Wins first All Japan GT Championship race in Round 6, Mine
1999 – Wins All Japan GT Championship Round 2, Fuji
Retires from racing car driving
2000 – Leads Team Kunimitsu as team manager in the All Japan GT Championship, competing with Honda NSX
2002 – Inducted in the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame
2005 – Competes as TEAM KUNIMITSU team manager in SUPER GT racing Honda NSX
2013 – Awarded the Le Mans 24 hours Hall of Fame award
2018 – Won the SUPER GT GT500 class (drivers: Naoki Yamamoto / Jenson Button)
2020 – Won the SUPER GT GT500 class (drivers: Naoki Yamamoto / Tadasuke Makino)
Presented the Sportsperson of Merit Award by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
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