Mon 18 Mar 2024

Obituary: Kenjiro Shinozuka

WRC is saddened to learn of the passing of Kenjiro Shinozuka, who died today (Monday 18 March) aged 75.

Shinozuka was a trailblazer for Japanese motorsport. In 1991, he made history by clinching victory in the Ivory Coast, becoming the first Japanese driver to triumph in a round of the FIA World Rally Championship. He won the same event 12 months later, co-driven by Britain’s John Meadows.

Born in Tokyo in 1948, Shinozuka's journey began at Mitsubishi Motor Corporation, where he combined his role as a salesman and mechanic with his passion for competition. With works support from Mitsubishi from the late 1980s, he became a regular frontrunner on endurance rounds of the WRC in a Galant VR-4.

Beyond the WRC, Shinozuka's spirit of adventure led him to the gruelling sands of the Dakar Rally. Of his 22 appearances, he was best known for his triumph in 1997, whilst driving a Mitsubishi Pajero, which marked him as the first non-European to conquer the Dakar.

Retiring from competitive motorsport in 2007, Shinozuka remained a respected figure within the community. Victory in the 2009 World Solar Challenge, driving a solar-powered car for Tokai University, highlighted his commitment to innovation and he was inducted into the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame in 2022.

Images: McKlein

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