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Naoki Hattori

13th June 1966 (Age 54)
Most recent race (in database):

Japanese Formula 3 Champion in 1990 with a La Garage Cox Ralt RT34-Mugen, Naoki Hattori was nonetheless scarcely prepared for his Formula 1 debut in the 1991 Japanese Grand Prix. He replaced Pedro Chaves in the Coloni C4-Ford for the final two GPs of the season despite having never tested an F1 car. The team had not made it through pre-qualifying all year so it was no surprise when he continued that run by being slowest of all at Suzuka and Adelaide.

Career outside Formula 1

He had begun 1991 in national Formula 3000 but that year’s highlight was victory in the Spa 24 Hours driving a works Nissan Skyline GT-R. With his brief F1 flirtation over, Hattori remained in Japanese F3000 for the next four seasons during which he won three times and finished fifth in 1992 and 1994. Hattori also raced an Auto Sport Racing Reynard 95D-Cosworth in the 1995 FIA F3000 races at Spa-Francorchamps and Estoril but crashed on both occasions.

Hattori competed in the national Formula Nippon, GT and touring car series during 1996. Victory in the penultimate Nippon race meant he entered the final round at Fuji just two points behind Team Le Mans team-mate Ralf Schumacher. Hattori was on course for the title but spun seven laps from the end. He was also competitive in Super GTs (runner-up and a three-time winner with a Lark McLaren F1-GTR-BMW) and saloons when a winner with JACCS Mooncraft’s Honda Accord.

Champ Cars with Walker Motorsports

Hattori spent the next two seasons in Indy Lights with Team Green. Those American adventures culminated in Champ Car graduation in 1999 with Derrick Walker’s Reynard 99I-Honda. He qualified 12th for his debut at Homestead but lost control at the start and collided with Al Unser Jr. Both were injured and Hattori’s broken left leg sidelined him until August. He returned and qualified seventh in Houston but further accidents summed up a disappointing solitary season in the series.

Back racing in Japan from 2000, the following year was another successful domestic campaign. His Team 5Zigen Reynard 99L-Mugen won three of the opening four Formula Nippon races in 2001 but Hattori only scored one more point all year and he was eventually overhauled in the standings by Satoshi Motoyama.

He retired as a fulltime racing driver after another six seasons but remains a star in Japan as a presenter of the Best Motoring television programme.