Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

February 9, 2011

INDYCAR And Its Japanese Connections

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:38 am

What’s the deal with Japanese drivers who come and go seemingly at the whim of either Honda or Toyota (when they were in the series)? Our boy Hideki Mutoh, who put in two years with Andretti and one with Newman-Haas, is headed back across the Pacific to run in that country’s Super GT series. He finished in the top 10 eight times, so was arguably pretty good.

Similarly, just when we were getting used to Kosuke Matsuura, he was gone. Roger Yasukawa is categorized as ‘Japanese American’ but he came and went too quickly as well, although he is always looking for a ride.

We also currently have Takuma Sato, but he is more known for being in Formula One then moving to INDYCAR and crashing a lot. He can probably be good in year two and he is quite personable, so we should cut him some slack.

The quality lately has certainly gotten better. We all remember Hiro Matsushita, or as Emerson Fittipaldi said, ‘King’ Hiro (shortened from ‘#*king’) as homage to his driving prowess or lack thereof. One of my all time favorites was Hideshi Matsuda, who made his primary living as a television reporter in Japan. In many ways he was the Japanese George Snider who seemed to be able to jump into a car with little practice and put it into the show. He even finished eighth in 1996.

The sport also briefly saw two Hattoris that were unrelated to one another. Shinji Nakano also raced briefly in champcar and the IRL. Perhaps Takuma can win a race this year. In many events before finding a wall he drove very competitively.

Japanese drivers, like women, are no longer novelties in INDYCAR, and enhance the diversity. Go get ‘em Takuma!

Update: INDYCAR announced the series will not return to Twin Ring Motegi in 2012. Unsure at this moment whose decision that is, but stand by. Maybe Cotman can hustle a street festival of speed in downtown Tokyo.



  1. Hiro bought Swift Engineering. His grandfather founded an electronics company that Americans know as Panasonic. You probably have noticed that the Panasonic name is typically somewhere on the cars of Japan’s IndyCar drivers.

    “King Hiro” never went away.

    Comment by Boo Boo — February 9, 2011 @ 8:58 am | Reply

  2. I’m afraid I agree with Emerson Fittipaldi’s assessment of Hiro Matsushita (Paul Page could NEVER pronounce his name right), that he was more or less a moving chicane, and considering the ride he had, should have done better. Takuma Sato was/is exciting, and probably was/is more capable of any Japanese driver of winning a race. You know he tries hard.

    Comment by DOUG — February 9, 2011 @ 8:10 pm | Reply

  3. Your blog got me to thinking why there is no Japanese driver in Nascar. Maybe Honda, Toyota, Panasonic, etc, see something in the IRL they don’t see there, ROI.
    Or maybe they just don’t want their drivers showered with chicken bones during introductions.

    I’m not sure what to think about Motagi, I always liked the track with the big end & the little end, kind of like Phoenix, but thought the TV really suffered by having only one person there.

    Comment by Chris Lukens — February 9, 2011 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

    • You are right Chris, the ROI would be less in Nascar…..these “drivers” likely would not qualify for the race.

      Comment by TroyM — February 10, 2011 @ 2:06 am | Reply

      • A swing and a miss, Troy. My point was, why would Honda, Toyota, Panasonic, etc, spend $10 Million to put their driver in Nascar, when they can do it for $3 Million in Indycar.

        Comment by Chris Lukens — February 10, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  4. i can tell you with 100% certainty, it was honda, specifically mobilityland corp., a wholly owned motor unit of honda, which owns the twin motegi track, which pulled the plug. now why would honda cut back on it’s involvement and investment in the “leegue”, when it is clear to all the blind followers, errr, fans of the indy car series that vibracy is rampant right now. sorry if i got the scoop before you, disciple.

    Editor’s Note: Hmmm. That’s odd. Your comprehension skills still seem lacking. Honda issued a statement today that said, and I quote, “While we have a unique understanding of the business climate in Japan which made this decision necessary, we wish to affirm that Mobilityland’s announcement has had no impact on IndyCar Series programs run by American Honda and Honda Performance Development. HPD has announced its commitment to participate in the IZOD IndyCar Series as an engine supplier with a new generation of turbocharged V-6 engines starting in 2012, and American Honda continues to support both the Series and individual race events.” Bottom line: Motegi is gone (no big whoop) and Honda is looking forward to its continuing involvement in the vibrant INDYCAR Series in 2012 and beyond. Tough news, eh?

    Comment by Jay — February 9, 2011 @ 9:24 pm | Reply

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