Kunimitsu Takahashi, the first Japanese winner of a Grand Prix, has died

The legendary Japanese racer was announced to have died by Honda on the morning of 16 March 2022.

Kunimitsu Takahashi.

IT has been announced by Honda that Kunimitsu Takahashi has died, aged 82.

Takahashi joined Honda in 1960 as a factory motorcycle racer, and later that year debuted for them in the Motorcycle World Championship later that year. 

In 1961, Takahashi won the 250cc West German Grand Prix, becoming the first rider from Japan to win a World Championship Grand Prix. It was also Honda’s first 250cc GP win, and the first Grand Prix win - in two- or four-wheeled competition - by a Japanese pilot.

Takahashi would then go on to compete in car racing, racing in the Japanese F1 Grand Prix in 1977 (video above), when he finished 9th in a Meritsu Racing Team customer Tyrrell 007.

Perhaps one of Takahashi’s most impressive achievements was taking victory in the GT2 category at the 1995 24 Heures du Mans car race in Le Mans, France, where he was partnered with drifting legend Keiichi Tsuchiya, and Akira Iida in a Honda NSX. It was not until 1999, when he was 59-years-old, that Takahashi stopped racing.

That was only in the form of a driver, though. Since 2000, Kunimitsu Takahashi has owned and managed Team Kunimitsu in Japan’s Super GT car racing championship. In 2018, Team Kunimitsu won the GT500 championship in Super GT - with 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button as one of the drivers - and it reclaimed the GT500 crown in 2020.

In a statement, Honda said it “is forever grateful, and is deeply sorrowful for the passing of a motor sports legend who has brought the company much triumph and glory.”

Honda President, CEO and Representative Director, Toshihiro Mibe, said, "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 motor sports activities, and his four wheel endeavours, he competed with Honda racing cars for over a quarter of a century, bringing many victories to the company.”