The Dakar in mourning

The Dakar in mourning

Winner of the Dakar in 1997 and the first Japanese and non-European to have registered his name on the winners of the event to date, Kenjiro Shinozuka, a driver long loyal to Mitsubishi, died this Monday at the age of 75. cancer.

For all rally raid enthusiasts, he remained forever the first Japanese winner of the Dakar. Kenjiro Shinozuka died on Monday at the age of 75 from pancreatic cancer. Loyal to Mitsubishi for a large part of his life – after having been employed by the company as a car salesman then as a dealership mechanic – Shinozuka had naturally been part of the ambitions of the Japanese brand since the latter had made its appearance in the rally-raid.

The former double national champion within the Mitsubishi factory team very quickly responded to the confidence of his lifelong image by accumulating stage victories in the discipline (21 in total). But it was obviously in 1997 with this success on the Dakar (then still called Paris-Dakar), the best in the world in rally raids, that the native of Ota made his mark. On his land first of all, since before him no Japanese had ever had the pleasure and honor of climbing to the highest step of the final podium, but not only that.

Very close to doing it again in 1998

With this coronation obtained alongside his French co-driver Henri Magne, Shinozuka also became that year the first non-European to triumph on the most famous rally set in the desert. A victory which also earned him the title of hero in Japan. He was even close to doing it again the following year. Finally beaten by Jean-Pierre Fontenay before getting on the podium again, four years later.

That year, in 2002, it was one of his compatriots Hiroshi Masuoka who would do it again, thus becoming the second driver from the country after Shinozuka to cross the line of the Dakar as a winner. A driver regularly present at the start of the Dakar for around twenty years (21 participations), the winner of the Argentine rally-raid in 2003 ended his career under the colors of Nissan. At 75, he still planned to compete until he was 77. Cancer shattered one of his last dreams as a pilot.

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