Ukyo Katayama

Ukyo Katayama

29/5/1963

Ukyo Katayama was one of several Japanese drivers to try their hand at F1 without making a major impact. However, Katayama was popular in the paddock for his unshakeably sunny disposition and self-deprecating sense of humour. Born in Tokyo, he first raced in Europe in 1986 in France before returning home to win the Japanese F3000 series in 1991. His sponsors, Cabin Club, arranged a Formula One seat for Katayama in 1992, with the Larrousse team. The car was unreliable and a distinct midfielder, with team-mate Bertrand Gachot getting the lion's share of the team's meagre resources. However, Katayama impressed by running in 5th at the Canadian Grand Prix until his engine blew, but was eventually left with a brace of 9th places as his best result. Cabin Club managed to arrange a switch to Tyrrell for 1993, but the team were at a nadir, with the interim 020C essentially three years old, and the new 021 proving uncompetitive. 10th place at the Hungarian Grand Prix was his best result, in a year in which he attracted more attention for accidents. 1994 was to see a considerable turnaround for Tyrrell and Katayama. He impressed with the new 022, scoring two 5th places and a 6th. He also impressed with a number of excellent qualifying performances, running 3rd at the German Grand Prix before his throttle stuck, and generally putting more experienced and acclaimed team-mate Mark Blundell in the shade. He stayed on with Tyrrell for the next two seasons, but suffered a mystifying loss of form, with two 7th places in high-attrition races his best results. During these years his habit of crashing would re-emerge, notably with a barrel-roll at the start of the 1995 Portuguese Grand Prix, and, as a rather short man, was highly disadvantaged by the regulation changes which led to walls being built up around the cockpit, a response to the death of Ayrton Senna. However, it would later emerge that in late 1994 he had been diagnosed with a cancer in his back; while non-threatening, it was painful, and his Grand Prix commitments delayed treatment. Katayama did not announce this until he retired from Formula One, not wanting anyone's sympathy to make excuses for him. After leaving Tyrrell, his Mild Seven backing landed him a seat at Minardi, but they too were at a low ebb, and two 10th places were his best result. At his home Grand Prix, he emotionally announced his retirement from Formula One. Still popular in his homeland, Katayama has since dabbled in sportscars and GT racing, as well as his other love of mountaineering. He participated in 97 grands prix, debuting on March 1, 1992. He scored a total of five championship points.

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