Kenjiro Shinozuka, a Japanese rally driver, was the first Japanese competitor to win a WRC event. He also became the first Japanese driver to win the coveted Paris-Dakar Rally in 1997 driving a Mitsubishi Pajero.
Kenjiro Shinozuka, a Japanese rally driver, was born in Ota Ward, Tokyo. He made his debut in 1967 and joined Mitsubishi Motors in 1971. There, in addition to his work in advertising, sales, product planning and overseas affairs, behind the wheel of a Galant VR-4 he won the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in 1988 and scored consecutive victories in the Rallye Côte d'Ivoire Bandama in 1991 and 1992 when it was a round of the World Rally Championship, making him the first Japanese competitor to win a WRC event. He also became the first Japanese driver to win the coveted Paris-Dakar Rally in 1997 driving a Mitsubishi Pajero.
His career covered a wide range of events in Japan and overseas. In 2000, he was transferred to the French Branch Office of MMSE (Mitsubishi Motor Sales Europe B. V) in order to concentrate his efforts on the Paris-Dakar Rally, as well as other cross-country events. He finished third overall in the 2002 Paris-Dakar Rally.
Shinozuka resigned from Mitsubishi in 2002, but continued to compete. He drove a Nissan pickup in the 2003 Dakar, but after hitting a sand dune he rolled his vehicle several times, enduring severe facial injuries and being placed in a coma. His co-driver Thierry Delli-Zotti suffered fractures to both his legs, although unlike Shinuzoka his injuries were not life-threatening.
Shinuzoka announced before the 2006 event that it would be his final appearance as a competitor.