Kenjiro Shinozuka Etches His Name in Dakar Rally History

    Born in Tokyo, Kenjiro Shinozuka made history as the first Japanese driver to claim outright victories in both the World Rally Championship (WRC) and the grueling Dakar Rally.

    Shinozuka’s greatest success came as a factory Mitsubishi driver. In 1988, he claimed the inaugural Asia-Pacific championship alongside co-driver Fred Gocentas, scoring a solitary rally win at the Himalayan Rally in India in a Mitsubishi Galant VR-4.

    The Japanese driver’s Dakar Rally exploits cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greats of the event. After a third-place finish in 1987, Shinozuka finished runner-up in 1988, behind WRC champion Juha Kankkunen. Further podium finishes followed in 1992 and 1995, before the Japanese driver finally clinched an outright Dakar Rally victory in 1997, driving a Mitsubishi Pajero. This triumph made Shinozuka the first Japanese driver to win the prestigious event.

    Shinozuka’s Dakar success continued with a second-place finish in 1998 and a third-place result in 2002. In 2003, he joined the factory Nissan operation, but his campaign was cut short by a nasty crash that left him and co-driver Thierry Delli-Zotti seriously injured. Shinozuka recovered and returned to contest the Dakar in 2004, making his final appearance in the event in 2007, where he finished 59th.

    Shinozuka’s exploits in the WRC were equally impressive, as he claimed two wins in the Ivory Coast rounds of the championship in 1991 and 1992, driving a Mitsubishi Galant VR-4. These victories made him the first Japanese driver to win a WRC event. Shinozuka racked up a total of 88 WRC points from 20 starts during his career, which spanned from 1976 to 1997.

    In recognition of his remarkable achievements, Shinozuka was inducted into the Japanese Automobile Hall of Fame in 2022. Last year, he was also part of the WRC safety team at Rally Japan, demonstrating his continued involvement in the sport.

    Kenjiro Shinozuka’s legacy as a pioneering Japanese driver who conquered the Dakar Rally and the WRC is cemented in motorsport history.

    ๐Ÿ”— Source