The Most Famous

RACING DRIVERS from Japan

Icon of occuation in country

This page contains a list of the greatest Japanese Racing Drivers. The pantheon dataset contains 888 Racing Drivers, 26 of which were born in Japan. This makes Japan the birth place of the 10th most number of Racing Drivers behind Argentina and Finland.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Japanese Racing Drivers of all time. This list of famous Japanese Racing Drivers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Japanese Racing Drivers.

Photo of Kunimitsu Takahashi

1. Kunimitsu Takahashi (1940 - )

With an HPI of 62.34, Kunimitsu Takahashi is the most famous Japanese Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 20 different languages on wikipedia.

Kunimitsu Takahashi (Shinjitai: 高橋 国光, Takahashi Kunimitsu, 29 January 1940 – 16 March 2022) was a Japanese professional motorcycle road racer, racing driver, and team manager. Nicknamed "Kuni-san", he is known as the "father of drifting". His racing career lasted from 1958 to 1999. He competed on motorcycles between 1958 and 1963, during which he became the first Japanese rider to win a World Grand Prix, taking four world-level wins in total. Injuries sustained in a crash in 1962 led to him switching to four-wheels in 1965, after which he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in class, become a four-time All-Japan Sports Prototype Champion, and won in Japanese Top Formula, JTC, and JGTC. His final victory as a driver in 1999 came at the age of 59. His racing team, Team Kunimitsu, has won multiple championships in Super GT. He was the chairman of the GT Association, the organizers of the Super GT series, from 1993 to 2007.

Photo of Satoru Nakajima

2. Satoru Nakajima (1953 - )

With an HPI of 61.39, Satoru Nakajima is the 2nd most famous Japanese Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Satoru Nakajima (中嶋 悟, Nakajima Satoru, born 23 February 1953) is a Japanese former racing driver. He is a five-time Japanese Top Formula champion, and was the first full-time Japanese Formula One driver. Accordingly, he is responsible for several firsts for Japanese drivers in Formula One, including being the first to score championship points (at the 1987 San Marino Grand Prix, where he finished sixth in only his second F1 race), and being the first to record a fastest lap (at the 1989 Australian Grand Prix).

Photo of Aguri Suzuki

3. Aguri Suzuki (1960 - )

With an HPI of 59.43, Aguri Suzuki is the 3rd most famous Japanese Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Aguri Suzuki (鈴木 亜久里, Suzuki Aguri, born 8 September 1960) is a Japanese former racing driver. He participated in 88 Formula One Grands Prix, his best result being third place at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix. He then became involved in team ownership, with interests firstly in the Japanese Formula Nippon Championship and the IRL in partnership with Mexican racer Adrian Fernandez. He was the owner of the Super Aguri F1 team, which participated in Formula One from 2006 to 2008. He then went on to form Team Aguri, which raced in Formula E from 2014 to 2016.

Photo of Takuma Sato

4. Takuma Sato (1977 - )

With an HPI of 59.15, Takuma Sato is the 4th most famous Japanese Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.

Takuma Sato (佐藤 琢磨, Satō Takuma, born 28 January 1977), nicknamed "Taku", is a Japanese professional racing driver. Sato is a two time winner of the Indianapolis 500, having won the event in 2017 and 2020. He was the first Asian driver to win the Indianapolis 500, and the twentieth driver to win the race more than once. Before winning the Indianapolis 500, Sato became the first Japanese-born driver to win an IndyCar Series race when he won the 2013 Grand Prix of Long Beach. He currently drives for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.Sato has raced full-time in the IndyCar Series since 2010 for KV Racing Technology, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, A. J. Foyt Enterprises, and Andretti Autosport, all with Honda engines. He competed in Formula One from 2002 to 2008 for the Honda-powered Jordan, BAR and Super Aguri teams, scoring a single podium at the 2004 United States Grand Prix. His 8th-place finish in the 2004 Formula One World Drivers' Championship is the best-ever result for a Japanese driver in the series.Sato has become known among fans and media for his motto "no attack, no chance" with regards to his racing style.

Photo of Masahiro Hasemi

5. Masahiro Hasemi (1945 - )

With an HPI of 58.08, Masahiro Hasemi is the 5th most famous Japanese Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Masahiro Hasemi (Shinjitai: 長谷見 昌弘, Hasemi Masahiro, born 13 November 1945 in Tokyo) is a former racing driver and team owner from Japan. He started racing motocross when he was 15 years old. In 1964 he signed to drive for Nissan. After establishing himself in saloon car and GT races in Japan, he participated in his only Formula One race at the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix for Kojima on 24 October 1976. He qualified 10th after an error which cost him his chance of a pole position and finished 11th, seven laps behind the winner. Contrary to a widely propagated but mistaken result, however, he never set a fastest lap in a Formula One championship race.1 Along with compatriots Noritake Takahara and Kazuyoshi Hoshino, he was the first Japanese driver to start a Formula One Grand Prix. Hasemi became the Japanese Formula 2 champion in 1980, and got two titles in the Fuji Grand Champion Series in 1974 and 1980. After that he reverted to racing Skylines, which he became heavily synonymous with in Group 5, touring cars and JGTC. He won the Japanese Touring Car Championship in 1989, 1991 and 1992. He also won the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship in 1990, with the controversial win at the Guia Touring Car race at the Macau Grand Prix in 1990 and Daytona 24 hour in 1992. Hasemi retired from driving in 2001 and now runs NDDP Racing, a Super GT team that currently competes in the GT500 class. Hasemi also owns Hasemi Sport, a former Super GT racing team that ran under the Hasemi Motorsport banner and Nissan aftermarket parts company. Hasemi is the most recent Japanese driver to win his home Grand Prix, winning it in 1975, when it was a non-championship race.

Photo of Ukyo Katayama

6. Ukyo Katayama (1963 - )

With an HPI of 58.06, Ukyo Katayama is the 6th most famous Japanese Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Ukyo Katayama (片山 右京, Katayama Ukyō, born 29 May 1963) is a Japanese former racing driver and team manager, most notable for competing for six years in Formula One. He participated in 97 Grands Prix, debuting on 1 March 1992. He scored a total of five championship points, all of them for the Tyrrell team in 1994. He also competed in the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing 2nd overall and 1st in the GTP class. He currently serves as the team manager for Goodsmile Racing in Super GT's GT300 class.

Photo of Toshio Suzuki

7. Toshio Suzuki (1955 - )

With an HPI of 57.74, Toshio Suzuki is the 7th most famous Japanese Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Toshio Suzuki (鈴木 利男, Suzuki Toshio, born March 10, 1955) is a former racing driver from Saitama Prefecture, Japan.

Photo of Kazuyoshi Hoshino

8. Kazuyoshi Hoshino (1947 - )

With an HPI of 57.24, Kazuyoshi Hoshino is the 8th most famous Japanese Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Kazuyoshi Hoshino (Shinjitai: 星野 一義, Hoshino Kazuyoshi, born in Shizuoka, Shizuoka Prefecture, 1 July 1947) is a Japanese former racing driver and businessman.

Photo of Yuji Ide

9. Yuji Ide (1975 - )

With an HPI of 56.89, Yuji Ide is the 9th most famous Japanese Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Yuji Ide (井出 有治, Ide Yūji) (born 21 January 1975) is a Japanese racing driver. He is the 2005 Formula Nippon runner-up and the 2010 Suzuka 1000km winner. He competed in Formula One with the Super Aguri team in 2006, but was demoted to third driver after four races and subsequently lost his FIA Super Licence.

Photo of Hiroshi Fushida

10. Hiroshi Fushida (1946 - )

With an HPI of 56.82, Hiroshi Fushida is the 10th most famous Japanese Racing Driver.  His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.

Hiroshi Fushida (鮒子田 寛, , born 10 March 1946 in Kyoto) is a former racing driver from Japan. He is the first Japanese driver to enter a Formula One World Championship Grand Prix, and the first to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.

Pantheon has 26 people classified as racing drivers born between 1940 and 1993. Of these 26, 23 (88.46%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living racing drivers include Kunimitsu Takahashi, Satoru Nakajima, and Aguri Suzuki. The most famous deceased racing drivers include Daijiro Kato, Norifumi Abe, and Shoya Tomizawa. As of October 2020, 1 new racing drivers have been added to Pantheon including Nobuharu Matsushita.

Living Racing Drivers

Go to all Rankings

Deceased Racing Drivers

Go to all Rankings

Newly Added Racing Drivers (2020)

Go to all Rankings

Which Racing Drivers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 3 most globally memorable Racing Drivers since 1700.