Starting a new regular feature today our columnist Ben Evans picks his favourite star from the back of the grid.
And who better to start things off with than F1′s greatest slapstick comedian, Taki Inoue.
Read about his brief career and watch video of some of his ‘highlights’ below…
Although it is overlong and patchy in places, the 1995 season review video is one of my favourites.
Partly because it coincides with the period when my interest in F1 expanded beyond Nigel Mansell. There’s also a high standard of crashing. But I think mainly it stems from the fact that it tells the full story of the season – not just who won what and who Ron Dennis scowled at – but actually looks at some of the backmarkers.
1995 was, by any standard, a bumper year for backmarkers. Unlike the pre-qualifying days, this generation of moneyed mobile chicanes were actually getting on the grid – at every race!
Giovanni Lavaggi is widely remembered as perhaps the slowest driver to have ever started a modern-era F1 race, while Jean-Denis Delatraz and Mimmo Schiattarella comfortably claim the runner up spots.
But the undoubted backmarker star of 1995 was Taki Inoue.
Inoue did little to set the world alight in a decade of racing up to that point – ninth place in the 1993 Japanese F3 championship was a career best. As far back as 1989 Inoue’s star was such that Formula Three teams in the UK were quoting him £400,000 for the season – double the rate for a competitive driver.
Eventually 1994 saw a move into Formula 3000 with Super Nova Racing alongside Vicenzo Sospiri. Sospiri came to within a whisker of winning the title. Inoue qualified ninth at Estoril, which was his best result of the year.
By the tail end of 1994 the fledgling Simtek team were already struggling to pay the bills, and Inoue’s wallet saw him in the car for the Japanese GP. Luckily the non-qualifying Pacifics were even worse than he was, so Inoue found himself 26th and last on the grid. His race lasted 3 laps before he aquaplaned off in the wet conditions.
Unsurprisingly this début did not have Inoue’s phone ringing off the hook with offers, but he managed to buy a seat in the Arrows team at $4.5m for the 1995 season.
Capitalising on the Oriental obsession with F1, Inoue was able to pay his way thanks to a series of small sponsorship deals with local companies. Little did he know he was set for one of the most bizarre seasons in F1 history.
Two freakish incidents stand out above the others. While being towed home after his Arrows expired at Monaco a combination of pace car driver bravado and Inoue’s incompetence meant that the Arrows somehow contrived to flip over. Aside from the embarrassment, it is worth considering that Inoue was probably going quicker with the tow rope than he managed in the Arrows.
Then came Hungary, where Inoue was most unfortunately, but most amusingly, run over by the fire marshall arriving to extinguish his smoking Arrows. The sight of Taki sprawled over the bonnet is the defining image of 1995.
Most drivers may have sensed the stars were out of kilter and called it quits. But no, Inoue completed the season, and in the process managed to determine the outcome of the championship, playing a cameo role in the infamous Damon Hill/Michael Schumacher shunt at Monza.
By the year’s end Inoue had become the inadvertent F1 drivers yardstick for ineptitude, with Johnny Herbet famously muttering after a bad qualifying session ‘I was driving like Taki Inoue’.
Unsurprisingly the Japanese was not offered a race seat for 1996, and retreated back home where he raced, without success, in Japanese GTs for a couple of seasons before calling it quits. Since then little has been heard, or sought, and it is now certain that Inoue’s legacy will be the five minute highlights clip of his crashes and incidents on the 1995 review tape.
Taki Inoue videos
Inoue’s famous cameo with the safety car at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 1995.
The Japanese driver pirouettes gracefully out of his final Grand Prix at Adelaide in 1995.