Kunimitsu Takahashi, otherwise known as Kuni-san by his colleagues and peers, passed away at the age of 82 years old on March 16, 2022. He won his first-ever race in the West Germany Grand Prix while flying the Honda flag. His achievement on the world stage gave Honda Motorcycles its first-ever World Grand Prix victory in the 250cc class.
Following his monumental achievement for Honda on two wheels, Takahashi then went into the world of four-wheeled racing just like what Valentino Rossi is doing in the GT World Challenge, with one of his notable outings being in the 1977 Formula 1 Japan Grand Prix as a wildcard finishing at a respectable ninth place.
Then in 1995, Takahashi competed in the 24 hours of Le Mans in the GT2 class while driving Honda’s race car that was based on a first-generation NSX. For the next four years (until 1999), Takahashi continued to race on four wheels.
After his career, Kunimitsu Takahashi founded Team Kunimitsu and managed the team while competing in the Japanese GT category with Honda NSX-GTs and HSV-010 GTs. His team managed to win in the SUPER GT and GT500 classes in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
Toshihiro Mibe, Honda president, CEO, and representative director stated:
“I am deeply sorrowful on the passing of Kunimitsu Takahashi. He played a major role
as a rider on the world championship stage at the dawn of Honda’s motorsports
activities, and his four-wheel endeavors, he competed with Honda racing cars for over a
quarter of a century, bringing many victories to the company. Takahashi’s influence went
way beyond Honda, touching the hearts of everyone involved in motorsports. I am truly
grateful for his countless achievements.”
Honda Racing sent out a press release following his passing, and his list of milestones, accolades, and achievements are as follows:
1940 Born in Koganei, Tokyo.
1958 Debuts in All Japan Motorcycle Clubman Race. Wins the All Japan Motorcycle Endurance Race (Mount Asama Volcano Race) 350cc class.
1959 Wins Mount Asama Volcano Race for second consecutive year (500cc class)
1960 Joins Honda R&D Honda Speed Club (HSC)
1961 Becomes first Japanese to win in World Grand Prix racing (Round 1, West Germany Grand Prix 250cc class)
Wins Round 9, Ulster Grand Prix (125cc class)
Finishes fourth in the Isle of Man TT (250cc class)
Ranked overall fourth (250cc) / fifth (125cc) in the 1961 World Grand Prix series
1962 Wins World Grand Prix rounds 1 (Spain) and 2 (France) (125cc class)
Crashes during Round 3, the Isle of Man TT, and recovers despite losing consciousness.
Ranked overall fourth (125cc) in the 1962 World Grand Prix series
1963 Competes in 14 rounds of the World Grand Prix season. Ranked overall ninth (250cc) and seventh (125cc)
1965 Moves on to four wheel racing
1970 Wins all five All Japan Drivers Championship T-II class rounds, taking the championship
1971 Wins the Japanese Grand Prix T-b class
1977 Finishes ninth in the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix
1985 – 87 Wins the All Japan Endurance Championship
1989 Wins the All Japan Sports Prototype Car Championship
1992 Establishes Team Kunimitsu, acting as manager and driver
1995 Wins Le Mans 24 hours race (GT2 class)
1996 Competes in the All Japan GT Championship driving Honda NSX
1998 Wins first All Japan GT Championship race in Round 6, Mine
1999 Wins All Japan GT Championship Round 2, Fuji
Retires from racing car driving
2000 Leads Team Kunimitsu as team manager in the All Japan GT Championship, competing with Honda NSX
2002 Inducted in the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame
2005 Competes as TEAM KUNIMITSU team manager in SUPER GT racing Honda NSX
2013 Awarded the Le Mans 24 hours Hall of Fame award
2018 Won the SUPER GT GT500 class (drivers: Naoki Yamamoto / Jenson Button)
2020 Won the SUPER GT GT500 class (drivers: Naoki Yamamoto / Tadasuke Makino)
Presented the Sportsperson of Merit Award by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology