Rally Driver Kenjiro Shinozuka Dies at 75; First Japanese to Win Paris-Dakar Rally (Update 1)

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
World-class rally driver Kenjiro Shinozuka in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun in 2022

World-class rally driver Kenjiro Shinozuka, the first Japanese driver to win the Paris-Dakar Rally, died on Monday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 75.

Born in Tokyo, Shinozuka became an employee of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in 1971 and competed in rallies while working as a salesman and a mechanic.

He began competing in the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1986 and became popular for the Mitsubishi Pajero he drove. After finishing third in 1987, he went on to become the first Japanese driver to win the championship in 1997, his 12th year participating in the competition.

In 1991 he also became the first Japanese driver to win the Ivory Coast Rally of the FIA World Rally Championship, which he won again the following year.

Shinozuka continued to participate in the Paris-Dakar Rally until 2007. He had been one of Japan’s leading drivers for many years, also competing in solar car races at his alma mater, Tokai University.

Shinozuka, a leading figure in Japanese motorsports, was inducted into the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame in 2022. Actor Tomokazu Miura is his brother-in-law.