Taki Inoue participated in eighteen Grand Prix. He scored no championship points. He is best remembered for two incidents in 1995. The first, being hit by the Safety Car while being towed back to the pits in practice at Monaco and the second, being run over by the Incident Vehicle at the Hungaroring.
Takachiho "Taki" Inoue was born in Kobe, Japan. He came from a wealthy family and is a good example of how to get into F1 with minimal ability.
He started racing in the Fuji Freshman touring car series in Japan in 1985 and, after another season where he did little to impress, he headed to England in 1987 to attend the Jim Russell Racing School at Snetterton. The fact that he spoke no English, had never raced a single seater and knew non of the circuits did little to help his limited ability to shine through. He made it through the year and for 1988 he joined David Sears Motorsport for a full season of British Formula Ford 1600.
After 25 races featuring a variety of offs, spins and rolls, David Sears declined to continue their relationship for another year. Taki wanted to graduate to F3 but with the team he approached asking for $625,000, he headed home.
Between 1989 and 1993 he contested the Japanese F3 series. In 1992 he scored 2 fourth places and finished 10th overall in the standings. He improved by one place in 1993, taking two more four place finishes on the way in his Dallara 393 Mugen.
Though he had done little to improve his driving over the years, he had honed his comercial abilities and in 1994, armed with a huge budget, he headed back to Europe to try his hand a F3000. He joined up with David Sears again in his Super Nova team, as team-mate to Vincenzo Sospiri. Driving a Reynard 94D Cosworth, Inoue's performance was uninspiring with a best result of 9th at Estoril and where his team-mate Sospiri was a championship contender, Inoue failed to score a single point.
Nevertheless Taki established contacts with some of the smaller F1 teams eager to make contact with his wallet.
After talks with Larrousse, Footwork and Lotus he ended up signing with Simtek and made his Grand Prix debut in the Simtek S941 Ford at Suzuka. In Friday qualifying he was 3.4 seconds slower than his team-mate, David Brabham, but in front of the two Pacifics. After rain on Saturday ensured that he made the grid, unfortunatley the rain continued into race day. On the parade lap, his Simtek lost 5th gear, but given that it was unlikely that he would need it he took the start. Three laps later while running behind Michele Alboreto in a Minardi he aquaplaned into the gravel joining Johnny Herbert's Benetton and Katayama's Tyrrell.
Inoue was back in 1995 now with Footwork Arrows driving their Hart V8 powered FA16 at a cost of some $4.5 million. This in itself demands a high degree of respect. By employing imaginative financial management, Taki avoided paying tax and thus maximised his fund raising efforts.
After all the work raising the money his season would have been, as expected, unforgetable if it was not for two bizarre incidents.
In Brazil he qualified 21st, retiring in the race at two-thirds distance with a fire. In Argentina, after a spin in practice he qualified 26th and last, 10.2 seconds slower than team-mate, Gianni Morbidelli, and 14 seconds off pole. In the race he spun out. At Imola he crashed early on after starting 19th. Another DNF followed another engine fire in Spain then came the first of his bizarre events, this one at Monaco.
On Saturday's free practice he was faster than Morbidelli but coming into the Mirabeau he moved over to let Heinz-Harald Frentzen through but ended up taking to the escape road where he stalled the engine. In order to participate in the next session he asked for a tow back to the pits. He had his helmet on but had not done up his belts and, as he was towed through the swimming pool section, he was hit from behind at high speed by the Safety Car driven by French rally ace Jean Ragnotti. The FA16 rolled, ending up in the barriers and Inoue was lucky to escape with only mild concussion. He was better the next day but, starting the race last, he retired with gearbox failure.
In Canada he actually finished in 9th, though two laps down on the winner, Jean Alesi in a Ferrari. In France he started 20th, but collided with his fellow countryman Ukyo Katayama on the first lap. He spun out of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and had another gearbox failure in Germany.
Then came Hungary and his second bizarre event. He had outqualified his team-mate, Max Papis, by some 1.2 seconds. However his engine failed on lap 14 and he pulled off the track with his engine smoking. Upset that the marshals were being slow to respond to the small fire, he went over and grabbed an extinguisher. The as he turned back to the stricken Arrows he was hit by the Incident Vehicle which was going too quickly to stop. He went over the hood of the car before landing back on his feet. A moment later the collapsed in pain on the ground. The marshal picked up the extinguisher and attended the car ignoring Taki writhing in agony. He had sustained a broken leg but was back in time for the Belgium Grand Prix where he again outqualified Papis. He finished 12th, just one lap down on Michael Schumacher.
In Italy he started 22nd but got caught up in the battle between Schumacher and Damon Hill. Having let Schumacher past, Hill claimed that he was blocked by Inoue which caused him to brake late and run into the back of Schumacher's Benetton, putting them both out. Taki was exhonorated by the TV replays and came home to his best finish, 8th.
At Estoril Inoue finished 15th after qualifying 19th. He seemed to be getting the hang of things. In the past four races he had outqualified Papis three times and for 12 minutes at the start of Friday's qualifying in Portugal he actually held provisional pole!
But that's as good as it got. At the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring he failed to start after qualifying 23rd when his his electrics failed on the line. He had another engine failure at the Pacific Grand Prix at Aida and came home 12th and last in his home Grand Prix at Suzuka. The last race of the season was in Australia. Taki qualified 21st, but spun off into a wall as he was about to be lapped by Schumacher.
For 1996, Inoue had a deal to drive for Minardi at a cost of some $3 million. Unfortunatley one of his sponsors pulled out and he was replaced by Giancarlo Fisichella.
Out of an F1 drive he returned to Japan. Since then he has only raced a few times. In 1996 he did the BRP Global GT Endurance Series 1000km round at Suzuka driving with Franz Konrad and Robert Nearn in a Konrad Motorsport Porsche 911 GT2 Evo. Inoue crashed the car in Friday practice. Then in the race the car retiring after 18 laps.
In 1999 he competed in four rounds of the Japanese GT Championship in the Club Yellow Magic Ferrari F355, driving with Tsuyoshi Takahashi. They finished 21st at Fuji before retiring at Sugo, Fuji again, and Motegi.
Inoue now runs the International Management Company which he started to manage up and coming Japanese drivers.