It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Honda’s first Japanese World GP Champion, Kunimitsu “Kuni” Takahashi, who was reported by RideApart to have passed away at the ripe age of 82.
Born in 1940 in Koganei, Tokyo, Takahashi was the racer responsible for Honda’s first-ever World Grand Prix victory in the 250cc class – an achievement that was later accentuated by the man’s success in the four-wheeled sector (looking at you, Rossi), logging fantastic moments such as his ninth place finish as a wild card in the 1977 Formula 1 Japan Grand Prix.
1992 saw Takahashi founding Team Kunimitsu and running the thing as manager – a move that also had his team rake in the success in the SUPER GT and GT500 classes in 2018 and 2020, and all while “competing in the Japanese GT category with Honda NSX-GTs and HSV-010 GTs.”
“I am deeply sorrowful on the passing of Kunimitsu Takahashi,” states Toshihiro Mibe, Honda’s president, CEO, and representative director.
“He played a major role as a rider on the world championship stage at the dawn of Honda’s motorsports 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 motorsports.”
“I am truly grateful for his countless achievements.”
Here is a list of the achievements the man accomplished in his truly commemorative career, based on the report:
- 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 the 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-wheeled 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 cars
- 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
Our condolences to Takahashi’s family – he was an amazing racer and, by all accounts, an amazing man.
Be sure to drop a comment showing your support of his racing legend, and as always – stay safe on the twisties.