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Aguri Suzuki

8th September 1960 (Age 59)
Most recent race (in database):

Aguri Suzuki was his country’s first driver to stand on a Formula 1 podium and has been successful as a driver and entrant in Indycars, GTs, national Formula 3000 and saloons. However, it is for his failed Super Aguri concern that he is best known among recent Grand Prix enthusiasts.

The scenes at the 1990 Japanese GP were electric as Suzuki’s Larrousse Lola-Lamborghini reeled off the laps and finished in third position. As he emerged onto the podium alongside Benetton’s Nelson Piquet and Roberto Moreno, Suzuka erupted in a joyous expression of national pride.

Early racing career

It had been a long ascent to that moment for someone who had started racing karts in 1972. Crowned national champion in 1978, he switched to cars a year later in the Japanese Formula 3 Championship. Six years in the category included finishing as runner-up in 1983 with a Hayashi-Toyota and 1985 for Central 20 Racing. That success led to a Nissan contract for touring cars and he won the 1986 Japanese title with co-driver Takao Wada.

Formula 1 with Larrousse, Zakspeed and Footwork

Suzuki graduated to Japanese F3000 with Footwork’s March-Yamaha in 1987 and 1988. He finished as runner-up behind Kazuyoshi Hoshino in his rookie year and narrowly beat the veteran to the 1988 title. Those performances launched Suzuki as Japan’s newest F1 hopeful and he made his debut for Larrousse Lola in the 1988 Japanese GP.

He signed with the Zakspeed-Yamaha F1 team for 1989 but ended the year with an unhappy record – the only driver to fail to pre-qualify for all 16 races. However, with backing from Japanese sponsors, Suzuki rejoined Larrousse for the 1990 season. Sixth in the British and Spanish GPs, that glorious day in front of his home crowd clinched 10th in the world championship.

Sixth in the 1991 United States GP at the start of an increasingly disappointing campaign, Suzuki moved to Arrows (now owned by and renamed as Footwork) for 1992 but he endured two seasons with the Mugen-powered team without so much as a championship point.

Final races for Jordan and Ligier

A one-off with Jordan in 1994 Pacific GP at Aida was followed by an arrangement to alternate a Ligier drive with Martin Brundle during 1995. Those final GPs of Suzuki’s career included sixth place in Germany. However, Suzuki crashed during qualifying at Suzuka and suffered damaged vertebrae and internal bleeding.

He returned to Japanese racing and finished third in the 1998 Le Mans 24 Hours with a works Nissan R390 that he shared with Hoshino and Masahiko Kageyama. Suzuki retired as a driver two years later but the Super Aguri brand was born with his growing team ownership. That included the ill-fated, Honda-backed F1 team that operated from 2006 to 2008.